main-reason-people-leave-church

UPDATE: Listen to the podcast episode about this post.

Numbers of gifted persons and organizations have studied the phenomenon of the church “back door,” the metaphorical way we describe people leaving the church. And there will always be the anticipated themes of relocation or personal crises. We should recognize those issues, though we can respond to the latter more than the former.

But all the research studies of which I am aware, including my own, return to one major theme to explain the exodus of church members: a sense of some need not being filled. In other words, these members have ideas of what a local congregation should provide for them, and they leave because those provisions have not been met.

Certainly we recognize there are many legitimate claims by church members of unfulfilled expectations. It can undoubtedly be the fault of the local congregation and its leaders.

But many times, probably more than we would like to believe, a church member leaves a local body because he or she has a sense of entitlement. I would therefore suggest that the main reason people leave a church is because they have an entitlement mentality rather than a servant mentality.

Look at some of the direct quotes from exit interviews of people who left local congregations:

  • “The worship leader refused to listen to me about the songs and music I wanted.”
  • “The pastor did not feed me.”
  • “No one from my church visited me.”
  • “I was not about to support the building program they wanted.”
  • “I was out two weeks and no one called me.”
  • “They moved the times of the worship services and it messed up my schedule.”
  • “I told my pastor to go visit my cousin and he never did.”

Please hear me clearly. Church members should expect some level of ministry and concern. But, for a myriad of reasons beyond the scope of this one blogpost, we have turned church membership into country club membership. You pay your dues and you are entitled to certain benefits.

The biblical basis of church membership is clear in Scripture. The Apostle Paul even uses the “member” metaphor to describe what every believer should be like in a local congregation. In 1 Corinthians 12:12-31, Paul describes church members not by what they should receive in a local church, but by the ministry they should give.

The solution to closing the back door, at least a major part of the solution, is therefore to move members from an entitlement mentality to a servant mentality. Of course, it is easy for me to write about it, but it is a greater challenge to effect it.

May I then offer a few steps of a more practical nature to help close the back door by changing the membership mentality? Here are five:

  1. Inform church members. Though I do not have precise numbers, I would conjecture that more than one-half of church members do not have a biblical understanding about church membership. Providing that information in a new members’ class can move an entire congregation toward a servant mentality.
  2. Raise the bar of expectations. We have dumbed down church membership in many congregations to where it has little meaning. Clarify expectations of members. Again, doing so in the context of a new members’ class is a great way to begin.
  3. Mentor members. Take two or three members and begin to mentor them to become biblical church members. After a season, ask them to mentor two or three as well. Let the process grow exponentially.
  4. Train members. Almost 100 percent of pastors agree that their role is to train and equip members. But almost three-fourths of these pastors have no plans on how they will train them (see Ephesians 4:11-13). I will address this issue more fully on my blog next Wednesday.
  5. Encourage people to be in small groups. Those in Sunday school classes and small groups are more likely to be informed and functioning church members. In others words, there is a much greater likelihood of a member with a servant mentality to be in a small group than not.

What are you doing in your church to close the back door? What are you doing to move members from an entitlement mentality to a servant mentality?

Comments

  1. says

    Great post! In the 4 years Pastoring at our church I have seen the greatest results thru one-on-one mentoring w either a man or a married couple to train them. It takes time but it brings results! And, slowly a church can be transformed.

    • Minister lee montgomery says

      thom really enjoyed your post here. i’ve been a minister at a small church as a minister and a elder. we went through a pastor resigning. and another preacher wanting the job. along with another one. it was not a easy time in the chruch. i think as men in leadership we all fail to many times. now there is a new pastor and not much leadership. i feel like i have no surport them any of them. so i feel now it’s time for me to move on. i’ve pray about it. and god has given me peace about it. i don’t think i’m giving up. i’m moving on.but my leaving the chruch on a good note.not blaming any one but myself for not being a better shower of gods love. thanks for your post it was a blessing to me,minister lee montgomery

        • Rabbi says

          There you go. Good job pastor bennett! You have given and accurate anecdotal example if why people are leaving the church. Because of crusty old attitudes like that. Of course God should be capitalized. But the writer if that post was obviously using very informal typing techniques. He didn’t capitalize anything. What if I told you I was one of the chosen people of Hebrew heritage and that I was offended that you even wrote the name of Elohim. Would you even get that reference? Bet you can’t show me a growing and vibrant church under your care! Just quit being crotchety silly.

          • DBASB says

            There you go….go job Rabbi. You have given an accurate anecdotal example of why people are leaving the church. Because of young millennial attitudes like that. Of course god should be capitalized. But the writer of that post may not understand things the way you or I do. What if I told you……that many find it offensive in the church today because people on both sides point their crotchety or millennial little fingers at each other instead of at themselves, and we are sick of watching it. What if I told you……that a vibrant church has nothing to do with a ‘movement’, or a feeling. Just quit being so super spiritual, and try to have purpose in your life….oh what is purpose? try to keep from embarrassing God for 10 minutes at a time. See if You can accomplish that.

      • DN says

        Lee,
        Love to hear your thoughts, ideas and insight from that experience of multiple pastors after yours resigned. Is there anything you know now that you wish you’d have known then?

    • Fredo says

      I have had several churches turn their back on me. When I was younger, it was because I had long hair. Later, I had a very painful divorce and when I called my pastor he just told me to let her go. She moved to another church, started seeing another sunday school teacher who was married and they said and did nothing. No matter how much I tried to reach out to her pastor, to reconcile with her she just wouldn’t listen. The irony is that she came back two years later only to leave me again after a month and go right back to this married man. I am hurt, confused, lost and feel betrayed. And the church remains silent on the matter. My faith has been crushed and I feel as if God has abandoned me no matter how hard I pray.

      • PETALS says

        My husband I and went apart approximately 20 years ago. The divorce decree stipulate he pay child support. he never did. I complained to his pastor and my complain fell on deaf ears. Eventually he remarry and went on to make a new family. Our children are now full grown adults. The child support our children should have been getting and will never get is now going to his new found family. God would now have it that we are all at the same church. I don’t see neither my ex-husband nor his wife as my enemy. But it is a challenge for me. God has given me strength to overcome all the obstacles. The church doesn’t really address these things. Trust in God to see you through. The best years of your life is yet to come. God has not abandoned you. Hold on to his hands and allow Him to work out His purpose for your life.

      • Carrie says

        Dear Fredo, unfortunately I think what’s happening is something that’s hard to hear. I think your pastor was right in saying let her go, especially since you describe her behavior. You, your Pastor, not even God will go against her free will to make her stay. We all have free will and God allows us to choose. She made her choice. It’s hard to hear that you have to let someone go and move on, but it happens. Now what God WILL do is emotionally heal you, strengthen you, help you overcome the hurt and help you find someone who is much better and deserving of you. He will teach us how to make better decisions in choosing mates if need be. However, your situation is not the churches fault. All they can do, at best, is offer advice, prayer and a comforting word. Be blessed.

        • Hal says

          Unfortunately, there are many needy people in the world; some with very complicated problem situations involving emotional and physical issues leading to a lifetime of baggage; some requiring professional help.
          Most churches do their best, but it is very unfair to walk into a church and dump a lifetime of problems into a pastor or elders lap and expect them to fix it for you….like…. right this minute. And in many cases some words of encouragement and prayer is the best that can be offered.

          • Jeff says

            Perhaps a biblically centered approach would help with your dilemma?!?

            God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle…and if these “lifetime of baggage” people appear at your door, who are you to turn them away? And what right has God given you to do so? And is encouragement and prayer really the best you can do? I challenge anyone on that.

          • Hal says

            Perhaps a biblically centered approach would help with your dilemma?!?

            God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle…and if these “lifetime of baggage” people appear at your door, who are you to turn them away? And what right has God given you to do so? And is encouragement and prayer really the best you can do? I challenge anyone on that.

            Very good point!
            Sometimes we tend to forget that the church is hospital for the sick……not a hotel for the saints.
            Jesus said….”it’s not the well that needs healed”.

      • Pastor Sam says

        First of all my beloved brother Fredo, Never allow anything that anyone see is or anything that you may go through Put you in a state of mind way you ever believe that God has abandoned you. He has not.
        Secondly, Please Do not think that it is God’s will That these things are taking place in your life. Our Heavenly Father gave us a something that maybe we could have done without. Smile. He gave us, “FREE WILL”. He gave us the right to choose The path and direction we desire to travel. The power to choose can sometimes be a dangerous thing.

        • Joyce says

          I agree with what Pastor Sam says… free will chosen may not always be God’s will. God gave each person free will… do choose God’s way… or our own selfishways. Yes, things happen for a reason, but sometimes that reason is because someone did not choose God’s will.
          But, God will never abandon you… we need only to open the door and invite Him into our hearts… and mind (reading His Holy Word… search the scriptures). “… they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily,” (Acts. 17:11)
          God is always there for us.

      • says

        I’m not condemning anyone who are going through this moment of suffering. But brother, you have to understand that God has never abandon you, God never abandon his children who love him and trust him and wait for him, and for sure he heard your prayer. God has seen your hurt, and if God has been silent is because he know better. You have to ask yourself, what the bible says about this matter and do follow it and do them. God has giving us the word for us to know what we must do in a situation like this. I can tell you that you no matter how much you love her, if she is not willing to love you back there nothing you will be able to do about it , love can’t be force on a person, love come and it is a voluntary love without any pressure. what you need to do is to put your mind and trust in God. The bible says, seek first the Kingdom of God and his Righteousness and then he will give you the desire of your heart. When something was not meant to be there nothing you can do to change that, but God always has the best things for you and when you never expecting you will rejoice so much on how good it was to wait on the Lord. Because everything that the Lord God gives to us are good and last long. Trust him he will never fail you. God bless brother.

    • KC Stewart says

      It’s not yawls Church it Jesus is the head of the church you just own the building that the Church gathers at. So to sound so mean just have to say what the Word of The Lord says.

    • john henry hassler says

      I feel we are living in the last days. But I do not understand Christian churches who have 3 services on a Sunday morning service. But no Sunday night services at all. There are more and more people who have to work on a Saturday/Sunday morning like [ 6 to 2] [7 to 3 ] [8 to 4 ]. A lot of those people have no choice. It’s like there already wearing the mark of the beast. I have heard of pastors say we can’t because of no money funds. Small group meetings I am in an agreement of. But Sunday night service your not going to make any excuses. I find my pastor is more concern who’s going to win the Sunday Football Super Bowl.

    • says

      Yes, JESUS said “make disciples” which is mentoring. I preach that you can not only BRING the word and expect it to transform people. The LORD prepares a table and also makes us to lie down in a place of rich sustenance. We must both bring the word as well as bring the feeble TO the table to dine. Make certain people are getting what’s being shared, empathetic ministry, which is all true ministry could ever be (empathetic). Many churches fail or struggle because they refuse to fix systems that are not user-friendly.

  2. says

    This is a “Leadership Issue” not a “Congregation Issue”. The church is in a leadership crisis. We have plenty of pastors who can lead from a platform through teaching and preaching but do little else to connect with their people throughout the week. A pastor can’t do it alone. Let’s grow leaders who can implement the model Moses learned in Exodus 18 and build leadership capacity within our congregations to meet the needs of our people in a personal way. It seems to me that the church has developed most of its programs around “come to us” in stead of the mandate to “go and multiply”? Multiply leaders who will go outside the walls of the church 168 hours each week to meet people where they are and “The Church” will grow.

    • Bob Gray says

      I agree that it is a leadership issue. My experience indicates that on the average, pastors jump congregations with a frequency that is not much better than the lay membership. How can a pastor lead the charge for long term committment if he is unwilling to deal with the discomfort that goes with it? Too many clerics hold their “callings” with the same attitude as a day laborer.

    • Valerie Smith says

      I totally agree with you Mr. Dave McAuley. I’ve been trying to get across that people need to be called or ministered to some way throughout the week. I’ve been going through a life crises, several all at once, and did not feel support from the church in which I was attending. Someone would ask how I am on Sunday, me in pieces, but didn’t seem to care enough to follow up. I came up w/the term “Sunday Friends” and it starting eating at me. I didn’t just want “Sunday Friends.” I was yearning for someone, anyone, to connect with, period, and especially emotional support throughout the week. But people are blind to those in need. I think unless you’ve been in those shoes, you don’t know what to do. Love is the key. Love as Jesus did. And Jesus didn’t only love on Sundays. He didn’t even wait for people to “come” to him. He went “out” to the people. I do feel led where I am going now, and have signed up for 3 classes in which I feel that I will be seriously be connected on and off campus. God Bless.

      • Adam says

        I had a similar experience recently. My wife and I had a crisis that put us at odds with each other in a legal matter. I had been a church volunteer and weekday service attender, whereas my wife was able only to attend on Sundays. In our crisis, we both reached out to church members, I to my Pastor and another church couple, and my wife to the Pastor’s wife. My Pastor had initially met with me once, promised his help and support and understanding. I requested he reach out to my wife, which he promised to do and give me some feedback. He promised to call me back, etc, and never did. I called the Associate Pastor for help also (who directed my volunteer service) and all I got were the usual platitudes like “Jesus will help you.” They took my wife’s side, and the Pastor initially stated he would come to court to support me emotionally and he then reneged. However, his wife was there supporting my wife!!! I have even attended church in the meantime, and he has promised to call me, get together to talk, and never did. It has been 2 months since the incident and nothing! The women all rallied around my wife, which caused all the men to leave me hanging, and my wife wants to know why I don’t want to go to church on Sunday? This is also not the first church things like this have happened to me in. I now think that this is endemic to all churches, due to the fact that they are defacto, if not dejure, being led by women. Women have all the influence and the men are milqtoasts. The only people to stand by me were the one couple, and they got a lot of flack for their trouble. I get more staying home and studying the bible for myself at this point. Who needs it?

        • Valerie Smith says

          Hi Adam. I am so sorry for the experience you had. I feel you pain and frustration. However, do not give up on church and the fellowship that is so very important. Pray for God to lead you to a place of worship that you can be warmly welcomed and plugged into. I just started attending a new church 2 weeks ago, and have joined some small groups to get connected w/people of similiar life experiences, people that are reaching back w/emotional support. The 1st service I attended was all about connecting!!! How about that…God is amazing today, yesterday, and forever. I hope you can find a place of worship you can call home. I wil be praying for you. Love in Christ, Valerie :)

        • Nicole DeGrandpre says

          If you are not the pastor’s favorite… forget it … he will see and help only his favorites… believe me I know what I’m talking about.

    • Steve says

      I agree with Dave – This is a leadership issue. And when leadership has an “entitlement” mentality themselves, then the sheep are sure to follow.

      • lian says

        agree, it came to the point that I got tired hearing it every Sunday, the Pastor has to tell everybody that he is the Pastor so and so and so and he did this and that,that he is merciful and that , most of the sermon was about himself!!!! But why are the people leaving if he was that great ? We found out after many years . He talked a lot I mean a lot about loyalty, and he was surrounded by boards and people who are willing to fight for him. Wow, poor people if you cross the line you are out of the door, they will guard the parking lot to make sure you can’t come back inside the church. I started to think this is madness and cultic. The fall and rise starts from the leadership the pastor preached one Sunday so it did. This is leadership issue period. I pray for people who have been hurt by the leadership that they may find a group that they can connect and be healed.

    • Keri says

      Thank you. I was going to say something similar. Though I understand what this gentleman is saying, the leadership has must take responsibility as well for creating the illusion of entitlment by their example. Too many times the leadership doesn’t understand their role. TO SERVE and shepherd, not dominate and control. Too many entitled pastors who think they need armor bearers and servants to carry their bible and grovel over their leaders. They think they are the ones to be served. A heiraechial system is NOT biblically sound . Lead by example and the people will follow. We are to serve one another in love.
      This is a major dysfunction that could be expounded upon almost indefinitely.

    • Mark says

      Do you really want new leaders? Are you willing to let them lead in their own way? Are you willing to step back and not micromanage them? Are you waiting on them to fail and then tell them they are incompetent?

      I am not sure any organization from churches to political parties to civic organizations wants new leaders because things might be done in a different manner than they were. Now different does not have to mean incorrect or immoral though to many people different equals wrong.

  3. Tom Moore says

    Your analysis agrees with my experience. Related to helping people change that attitude is keeping them in the church long enough to allow that to happen. If they are not made to feel welcome in the church by intentionally including them in the activities of the church and treating them as a valuable member they will not want to stay long. As an associate in one church much of my time was spent greeting everyone, talking to them and taking an interest in them. During that 4 years the church grew and we lost only one or two families to other churches. I did relate to the people as a “method” but simply because I truly love people even the ones that aren’t always lovable. The senior pastor made it a point to acknowledge new people and any noteworthy events in peoples lives and I kept him informed of such things.

  4. says

    Before I make my comment, let me give some brief background. I have been a believer for over 25 years and a member of three different Baptist churches since 1987. I am a bible college and seminary graduate (B.A; M.A,MDiv).

    How about people leaving a church because they are not being used? That is the case I am currently in. I was teaching an Adult Bible Fellowship and then I was replaced with no warning or explanation. I have never been asked to fill the pulpit. It is tough because I spent several years getting my education and never thought I would be on the “sidelines” for three years after my seminary graduation. i will fulfill my responsibilities, but when they are completed, II will leave, unless something changes. What is strange is that our church houses a seminary within its complex.

    I would rather find a church where I can be used rather than be penalized for being a seminary graduate.

      • B Tada says

        Many times I found the ones running a certain ministry is not looking for others to join or help – no matter how many times you say or ask. What do you do then? Been a active church member for 10 years always there when service happens.

    • says

      Terry,

      I could not agree with you more. Going through something very similar, I have learned that there are a variety of reasons why this is happening. Whatever the case is, your church should have offered you a staff position and called on you to fill the pulpit whenever needed. A real church would have done this.

      One thing you can take a look at though. Since churches and leadership tend to be consistent on issues like this, take a look at other examples in the church of how they are equiping people for ministry. You may find, that your church only gives lip service to training and equiping for ministry, even with a seminary housed on the campus.

      Also, I am curious. Is your church a small church of less than 100 or is it a large church. I am under the impression that the smaller the church, the less likely you will ever be used for ministry to the capacity in whuch you are able.

      • roy valverde says

        Yes. It could be you do have your degrees. Yet, is it simply the pulpit, where you feel the razzle dazzle? As in construction. When a person knows how to do all the little things. That person, will never be without work.

        • Jason Mahill says

          Roy,

          In my case, the issue of the pulpit was simply the most visable public blazing sign stating that the church was not interested in supporting someone called to ministry. Additionally, to use the construction analagy, my case is one of being the skilled laborer being passed over for someone who is not even expected to be on the jobsite.

      • Adam says

        Its’ all power plays anymore. Our church is very small, and the entire worship team consists of the Pastor’s family! Good luck breaking in to that! Pastor is great at preaching sermons, but not much else. He never even shows up to most of the church’s special events.

        • Brent says

          Adam, I would be very slow to make statements like, “My Pastor is great at preaching sermons, but no much else.” To bring such a damning charge upon one who will give account over your soul is not from the Spirit. Do you pray weekly for your Pastor & his family? You need to seek reconciliation with your Pastor in person & not anonymously trash him in a blog. We don’t know who he is or even who you are, but God certainly does. Seek peace & forgiveness in person & if you feel he has sinned against you then express that to him in an appropriate setting.

          • Jason says

            Brent,

            Where in the Bible does it say a pastor will give an account of your soul? As Baptists, we agree with scripture that we are a priesthood of believers… that means no priest, pastor or minister is going to be giving any account on your behalf.

            Since I don’t know Adam’s church, I’m not going to pass judgement on him at all. He is the one there and while I believe there is some value in being faithful to your pastor, I have seen way too many in ministry because no one wants to tell them they are terrible in ministry… and in some cases, should be disqualified and fired because of their personal lives.

          • Brent says

            Hebrews 13:17, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

            Pastors, Like mine, yours & Adam’s, will give an account to the Lord one day for their service of shepherding the souls that have been entrusted to the flock they tend to. Of course every believer is accountable for their own soul before the Lord, but as the shepherd of that local flock, that local shepherd will give an account for his service and shepherding. This is a totally different subject than the priesthood of believers. Therefore if Adam has a conflict or sees a dangerous blind spot then he should in gentleness and love alert his shepherd rather than carry what appears to be a sizable enough concern that he would burn him in front of an anonymous audience, yet not approach that man to his face. That my brother is what I am referring too. In Christ,

            Brent

          • Jason says

            Thanks for the clarification Brent… though we are both fluent in English, this terrible language can be confusing.

            My advice to Adam is to bring your concerns up to your pastor. However, if the leadership in your church has not brought it up, they are either ok with the status quo or simply have no idea what should be expected of a pastor.

            If the latter is true, no amount of input from you will make a difference… It is ok to go and serve somewhere else.

    • says

      Terry and Jason,
      I can understand your frustrations with feeling overlooked or believing you’re being denied opportunities for more significant ministry. But have you gone to your pastor(s) and humbly asked why they have seemingly bypassed or overlooked you? Let me gently encourage you to focus on servant ministry needs that are readily available to you and not expect to be promoted to the higher seat of public ministry.

      • Jason Mahill says

        I do appreciate your perspective on this Pete and I have done this. It is not about an unreasonable expectation for promotion. It’s about being allowed to serve, especially in areas of ministry that are not being served in any meaningful way. Fortunately, when I did take my concerns to the pastor, he at least made it a priority to fill the pulpit in his absence from within our church.

        Unfortunately, many churches have the same problem. It’s related to the issue of what educational qualifications churches require of their senior pastors, an MDiv or higher, but a total lack of willingness to help college and seminary students accomplish this… including providing for practicum and internship requirements. Generally, churches that are like this often have a low expectation of discipleship over all. By the way, our seminary here in California does not allow students to take out Federal Stafford loans, a policy I agree with, but it’s difficult to move through seminary without minimal financial support from your home church.

        Up until about a year ago, I thought this second back door was unique to small churches, but after some conversations with several church planters, I discovered that many youth ministers of medium sized churches leave to become church planters for the same reasons… but again, it’s not about promotion, its about restraints that are driven by placing church growth over evangelism and discipleship… which, oddly enough, hurts church growth growth.

        As for me, I am moving into church planting now. However, since my calling still is (and I suspect will remain) youth and student ministries, I am actively recruiting possible bi-lingual pastors to reach communities in my area of California… with whom I can serve as part of a team.

        • says

          Jason…Thank you for your thoughtful reply. You have helped me become better informed on an issue that I have not personally experienced, but can now better relate to. I also am a church planter and am happy to hear of God’s leading in your life.

    • Ken Barkema says

      Was thinking about your comment. Are you thinking about leaving that church because you are not feeling used there, or not being used in pulpit ministry? I do understand the frustration of working hard to prepare for a specific ministry, and then not be able to do it. Was just wondering. I will be praying for you that God guides you into His perfect will for your life and that He uses you to fulfill the exact purpose for which He created you.

      • says

        Yes, I am thinking about leaving precisely because I am not being used and because I am not getting any support from the church with regard to going into full-time ministry. I have completed my seminary training back in 2010. A well-trained seminary graduate should not be on the sidelines in any church.

        • Anna says

          Hello Terry,
          I think you should know that you are never on the sidelines. Their are always opportunities for you to share the gospel on your own time ,and seek and save the lost. We have to understand that we are the church and the “church” is not just some building we go to. God might have you on the sidelines for a reason. Jesus says to exalt yourself and you will be humbled , but If you humble your self you will be exalted. We have to understand that the church is not a worldly business. So just because I have a seminary degree doesn’t mean I should be running the church, even though I know you didn’t exactly mean it that way. It’s God’s church and its all about where He wants you, Jeremaiah 29:11. So , fast and pray and Ask God where exactly he wants you to minister and He will show you. I don’t think that you should leave your church unless God clearly directs you and you hear directly from Him(Holy Spirit). Amen. I hope that encourages you.

          God bless!!!

    • Ruth New says

      Good grief Terry, how very sad your story is. Come to our church! We’ll put you right to work! I’m an officer in the Salvation Army and we put all soldiers (members) to work! Find a Salvation Army congregation and you’ll not be sorry. But if you’re close to Annapolis, MD join us and a myriad of service ministries that desperately need leaders with education and experience. I don’t understand how you’re not being utilized! It’s crazy. I’ll be praying for you :) blessings!

    • Tim says

      i agree to a certain extent. I can understand the hurt of being replaced without any warning. That certainly wasn’t handled right. my question is how large is the church? How many seminary students attend there? Could it be a case where it would be difficult for the pastor to let every seminary student fill the pulpit. Not trying too be critical
      just trying to look at it through a pastor’s eyes.

      • says

        Church is about 680. I have been here almost 11 years. I finished seminary in 2010. There are maybe three current students that attend here. I am one of a few who have finished their seminary training and are still here. There is one man who went to another seminary and also has an MDiv.

        I am not talking about filling the pulpit with a student, but why not use people that have finished their training and are waiting for a place to serve. Brian Croft from practicalshepherding.com talks in several articles about affirming men who are in your church and have completed their formal education.

        I have never once asked to ever fill a pulpit, but I am beginning to wonder if I never preach where I am currently a member, then how can the pastor or staff give any kind of honest recommendation of my preaching?

        Churches are looking for men with experience and it is a catch-22 of sorts. If you have no experience, then they will not hire you. I interviewed with a church a few months ago that was ready to hire me, but they had some serious theological issues that I do not think they were willing to budge on, including having someone on the pulpit committee that was not qualified for church leadership. Churches will ask for sermon recordings, it is quite embarrassing to send them a sermon from 2008 because I do not have anything more recent.

        I had thought about going on for further education (ThM, PhD or DMin), competition was too great at the ThM and PhD level and I got rejected from a different seminary. Was going to go the DMin route and found out I can’t get in because I do not have any post-MDiv vocational ministry experience.

        • Jason Mahill says

          Terry,

          I think you are hitting on something that is very relavant to our situations. One thing I have discovered with churches in the SF Bay Area connected with GGBTS, a Southern Baptist Seminary… these churches are very open to creating associate pastoral positions in their churches for seminary students who either need to be involved in minsitry for course requirements or for final placement and “integration” into ministry. On the other hand, where I am, 230 miles south of SF, pastors and churches are completely unaware of this need. It is not uncommon that people with a BA in Biblical studies and ministry or an MDiv will be overlooked.

          The main problem here is you can have a degree or an MDiv and 10+ years of experience in ministry, but if the church you are with right now does not even offer you an internship, you have little cahnce of being called by a search committee to serve elsewhere.

          The only way to break this is make yourself available to pastors that you know… and make yourself available for both short term internships as well as long term permanent ministries.

          • Paul says

            Hey everyone,
            I have read your post and sympathize for your desire to be involved. I have been in the ministry for twenty years now. I do not have a degree but I know I was called to preach. Every time I wanted to go to seminary something always blocked my path. It was finances, family and even health issues. My bible is all I need to proclaim the gospel. I love God’s word and cannot study it enough. It is a craving, a hunger and a thirst for me. Some of the bigger churches were unwilling to allow me to speak but I hold no ill will toward them. I love the church. The key to a servant attitude is to follow the Holy Spirit. No matter what we have done, none of us are entitled to anything. It is not about us, it is about Jesus. I wish you guys were in Mississippi. I would certainly put you to work. I am very concerned about our country and the path it has taken over the past few years. Let me encourage you to follow your heart and bloom where you are planted. No one said it would be easy. I stand upon God’s promise that He will never fail me nor forsake me. Be willing to go wherever He leads you. I will keep you in my prayers. May God direct your path and bless your journey.

          • Valerie Smith says

            Hi Paul. Thank you so much for your encouraging words. And I feel you are right, all you need to teach or preach the true gospel is the Word. Have a blessed day and keep doing what you do. Love in Christ, Valerie.

  5. Heartspeak says

    The reasons identified in this post would lead me to suspect that the folks who are leaving did not and do not understand the concept of being a Christ-follower. They received the Word gladly but never understood that it wasn’t about their needs. For that, the local church has only itself to blame. In my experience (50 + years) we have called them to ‘come to church’ and then we wonder why they didn’t also become faithful disciples. It’s essentially a bait and switch model. We enable and encourage the form because we fear too many will leave if we call them to genuinely follow the Master. Psst, they leave anyway! In the meantime, even those who stay are often crippled in their faith.

    While individual circumstances may affect things, Terry’s comment regarding empowering their people, should be taken to heart. This is precisely because, genuine Christ-followers will want and expect to be involved. If it’s about filling slots in the church programs, there will never be enough slots for everyone to fill. If it’s about equipping disciples to minister and make disciples, there will be an unlimited opportunity. Churches that only value and/or recognize formal ministry directly related to their programs will face two issues. The slightly interested will lose interest and the committed disciples will naturally leave for places that will encourage Kingdom building instead of kingdom building.

    The churches are more in crisis today because the generation that thought they should be committed to the ‘local assembly’ no matter what is aging. Christ followers are committed to the Kingdom no matter what and that may mean that churches who live to perpetuate themselves may matter far less in the future.

  6. Donna says

    I cant totally agree with you here….We left the church my husbands family had attended for many decades because the church fell away from biblical truth….we felt we had no choice to leave when the church become so liberal with it’s own doctrines and totally disengaged itself from the gospel.

    • Thom Rainer says

      Donna -

      Please note that I did say there are valid reasons for leaving a church, and your reason is certainly valid.

      Thank you for taking time to comment.

  7. says

    Excellent post.
    Jesus had the same issues. Crowds followed him to get more food, not to selflessly serve as His disciples (John 6:26).
    Even large numbers of His own disciples left when they couldn’t cope with the difficulty of His teachings (John 6:66).
    Jesus never chased after these people for fear that numbers would diminish, but listened to His Father and refused to be distracted by the pressures to conform to worldly popularity.

  8. says

    Dr. Rainer,

    This was something I recently discussed with my fellow elders (and turned into a blogpost today). I think there needs to be clear understanding of what it means to be a covenant member of a local church. I know that church covenants are coming back into evangelical life (which is huge IMO), but how are they being employed? Are they functionally having conscious implications on how members think and live?

    What you mentioned as the entitlement mentality, I referred to viewing their commitment to the church as a contract – meaning that whenever the conditions are not met to their satisfaction, they feel justified in leaving the church. Covenant members don’t think this way. They are bound to one another like family. They know disappointments, frustrations, and heartaches will happen. They choose to engage with grace and forgiveness rather leaving with bitterness and sin. In other words, when members learn to live on the basis of the gospel (one of repentance and faith) as opposed to self-absorption, we enter into the front door of each other’s lives and don’t entertain the back door of the church.

    Thanks for writing this helpful article! Oh, and here’s my article FWIW –
    http://timmybrister.com/2013/01/church-covenant-or-church-contract/

  9. Liz says

    Rarely have I read a more arrogant post. If this is the mindset of any lead pastor, this will naturally become the attitude of all staff members. What this demonstrates is a lack of love & a servant attitude of leaders. With this being the predominate attitude, it fosters an ‘us against them’ in the body of Christ. With the above attitude, leaders are apt to admit error or learn a Christ-like servants heart. Exactly the opposite of what you are determined to teach your ‘servants’….

    • Thom Rainer says

      Liz -

      I do hope my heart was not arrogant when I wrote this post. I do know, however, that I am a sinner who often strays. I pray that God will show me where my heart is wrong here.

      • Kim says

        Mr. Rainer, I cannot agree with Liz. While I do not know her and cannot say what her personality is, my first thought regarding her is this.
        I get the strong impression that she is one of the persons that would leave because the ‘leaders’ of the congregation are not meeting her needs. If I am wrong in that impression, I apologize.

    • says

      Whoa Liz…Be careful you’re not bringing in some emotional baggage from somewhere else and unloading it on Thom. I read Thom’s blog and did not come away with any of what you just wrote.

    • George says

      Liz hit the nail on the head. I have a family member that is a pastor and he will freely tell you he is only concerned with what his congregants can do for him.

  10. says

    Dr. Rainer, I loved the content in your blog, and it reminded me of the many ways our churches fail to connect with people. If we were really connecting with people, they wouldn’t leave because they “couldn’t” leave. They would be intimately tied to the church in such a way that leaving would be painful because it would mean fracturing relationships. This is an extreme viewpoint, but I believe it to be a tangible way to evaluate how well we are keeping people in our churches.
    As I read your responses to the reasons people leave churches, I believe each of them makes a very valid point for the church’s response to the open back door. We need to find ways to communicate a clear path of discipleship for people in our churches.
    But as I read the book unChristian by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, and then look at the comments you quoted in your blog, I don’t think churches are addressing the problem. The quotes you cited from people who left the church don’t point to a systems issue. There may be symptoms of leadership issues. But the main thread is a lack of connection between people. Each of those quotes shows a hurt that could have been addressed by building healthy relationships.
    Kinnaman and Lyons write, “Mosaics and Busters are the ultimate ‘conversation generations.’ They want to discuss, debate, and question everything. This can be either a source of frustration or an interest we use to facilitate new and lasting levels of spiritual depth in young people. Young outsiders want to have discussions, but they perceive Christians as unwilling to engage in genuine dialogue.” (Kinnaman, David & Lyons, Gabe. unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity…and Why It Matters. Baker Books, October 1, 2007. Kindle AZW file.)
    If we are answering peoples’ felt needs with membership expectations, programs, buildings, or even theology without allowing them to interact and engage in the discussion, we are missing why the back door is so wide open and widely used. People are leaving churches using the term “irrelevant” not because the Gospel didn’t apply to them, but because our inability to engage them in conversation made them feel marginalized and irrelevant.
    Kinnaman and Lyons go on to say, “…for many people the Christian faith looks weary and threadbare. They admit they have a hard time actually seeing Jesus because of all the negative baggage that now surrounds him.” (Ibid.) I truly believe most of the negative baggage surrounding Jesus has to do with how we as the church have “packaged” Him, not the truth of who He is.
    Nobody wants to go to hell. Nobody wants to miss out on the life God has for them. But if they can’t figure out a way to take ownership of that life for themselves and have to jump hurdles we put up just to engage, it’s our fault they want to leave. Moreover, I applaud them for doing so, lest they become actors in and unfolding drama void of biblical truth and the certainty of eternity.

  11. Heartspeak says

    By the way. This is the second time I’ve seen pastor Rainer refer to the statistic regarding the disparity between a stated belief in training and an actual practiced value on training. This is deeply disturbing to me. It’s not that some, or many pastors have no plan for training its that THREE QUARTERS of them have no plan. Is not our purpose to ‘equip the saints’??? I think that much of the local church’s issues could be traced back to this subject. It reflects a do as I say, not as I do thought process. Isn’t that the knock on churches from so many these days? Are we too focused on the business of doing church and doing Sunday morning? Should not practical training of leaders and disciples be given a higher priority?

    I am a passionate small group guy. Leader, trainer (ahhah, the connection!) and shepherd to small group leaders. I absolutely believe in the value of small groups. Unfortunately, I’ve seen far, far too many occasions where they fall painfully short of their potential because leaders of small groups are either untrained or poorly trained and poorly shephereded. Often the good that can come from small groups is more than un-done by this lack of attention given to the leaders of small groups. Small groups are only one area where ‘equippng’ isn’t being done or done very well.

  12. Mark says

    I really disagree with this post. It sounds very arrogant and as if you’re making the problem there’s. God said I no longer call you servants, I call you friends, so why do we have to adopt the mind of a slave to be welcomed into church? We have the ministry of reconciliation, to help people find and follow Jesus and come into who they are as SONS and DAUGHTERS of the King. That’s what people are looking for even if they don’t know it. It can manifest as superficial and natural reasons such as not being fed (a legitimate problem) or not be greeted when they come to church. But it is the Body’s job to introduce them to a God who loves ten more than anything and the Discipleship Spirit comes from knowing who you are as an heir. If you want to gain members and close the back door, do what Jesus did: Love people, pray for the sick, cast out demons.

    • Ken says

      Mark, I think ur confusing what Thom was trying to point out. HOW do we become the church Jesus envisioned.

      Yes, we should love people, pray for the sick and cast out demons. But how do we go about doing that practically? And if we’re not doing it, why not and/or what are we doing wrong?

      I don’t see how Thom’s post was arrogant and I think we all need to be careful about how we throw labels like that around. It’s one thing to disagree, quite another to call someone arrogant just because they brought up something they felt might need to be addressed in churches.

      I believe there are many good churches and leaders in them who want to do better but don’t know how to.

    • Wayne says

      We often forget Paul’s advice on criticism to the effect that we each “stand or fall” to our Master, and that He is able to make us stand… therefore criticism is not endorsed generally, and only when necessary to restore health to the body, as in the case of Paul’s instruction in Corinthians regarding the flagrantly disobedient brother. The “cancer” in the body of Christ is “followers” who refuse to be led by anyone but their own desires or egos. It is only appropriate for Thom to point out what is needed in the body in general, as one who has been chosen by God and approved by the Body as a leader. He is not being arrogant, but observant, and speaks in a prophetic role in a sense, “forth-telling” to the Body as a whole.

  13. says

    This is very insightful. Sadly, some people like my family, had to make the difficult decision to leave a church (in love) because we DO have a servant mentality and not an entitlement mentality. WE were being served with excellence and great abundance. But…it’s not about me.

    • Chris says

      In reference to my previous post, I should have also pointed out, I wasn’t just being served..I served in many leadership roles over 14 years and loved my church. God changed my heart to serve & reach outside the walls of the church. After trying for years to make it work, it just didn’t line up with the “country club” vision that I had become so comfortable with.

  14. says

    To those who think Dr. Rainer’s post was “arrogant”, remember it’s based on actual research and not opinion.
    If it’s “arrogant” to call believers, and churches, to a higher standard of unselfish discipleship, may more preachers be found guilty.

      • Thom Rainer says

        Tammy -

        There is no singular research project, but several projects that influenced the blog. You can thus find some of the research in two books by me: “High Expectations” (albeit older data) and “Millennials.” You can see much of the data related to the latter at LifeWayResearch.com. Also, Kinnaman’s research noted in his book “You Lost Me” was instructive.

        Thanks for asking.

  15. says

    As far as the excuses go, they can really all be condensed into one real reason. “I don’t see the value”. The other junk is just rationale.

    All your suggestions are very good, but #2 absolutely hits the nail on the head. It’s easier to join, and more is expected of when in, the Kiwanis Club, then the SBC churches with which I am familiar.

  16. says

    Thom,

    I am an associate pastor and had a quick question. In your study or experience what is the best time to offer a New Member class or a Doorway class? Is it on Sunday morning during the Sunday School hour or Sunday afternoon before an evening service. Also is it best to keep them to 1-2 weeks in length? We used to do one that covered various aspects of our ministry over a 6 week period and we found most folks made half of the classes. I would appreciate your insight.

    • Thom Rainer says

      Todd -

      I am reticent to name a “best” time since so many factors are contextual. I will say, however, that Sunday morning is the most common time followed closely by Sunday afternoon. Also, more churches are moving toward one class (typically about three hours in length) rather than a multi-day class for the reasons you stated.

      Blessings.

      • debra roland says

        I went to a church. I wanted to be saved. It was all new to me so I wasn’t familiar with so much that they seemed to assume i should know. I took their “new members class” that same day. After that class, I never went back. I felt they had put a million and one demands on me and I had not even gotten to the point of being baptized. They scared me away and I never tried again. I am not complaining, but hoping for you folks to understand how it feels to someone to be new to it all. Give them a chance to acclimate and learn before you give the many demands.

  17. Candace says

    It may be that older members are leaving for those reasons but having Christian young people in our home on a regular (3-4 nights a week) basis the biggest reason they give for leaving the church is “judgment”. They are expected to be living a righteous life the minute they get saved and not given time to grow. There is also very little one on one discipleship going on in most churches. We weren’t called to mentor people on church membership (there was no such thing in the first century assembly). We were called to “go and make disciples”

  18. Kent Larson says

    It appears there is not one but two back doors in most churches. One door is used by those with the dissatisfaction mindset, as you have described, of not being provided with ministry services while the other door is used by those who are gifted with talents and ministries but feel restrained from exercising them. These second-door believers are not frustrated by a lack of Spirit-led ability to serve others as God has graced them but rather a lack of opportunity to serve, fellowship, or relate with fellow believers in a manner the Holy Spirit encourages. In my view, this is indicative of a foundational flaw in the institutional mindset. and structure. Many of these second-door believers are exiting in search of a deeper and more profound body experience which they will ultimately find in a relational church construct.

    • Jason Mahill says

      Well stated Ken. There are definitely 2 back doors wide open in some churches. 1 for the church hoppers (and I mean that negatively toward churches, not individuals) and 1 for those of us who have taken the time to earn a degree in our ministry calling and continuing through seminary. I just wish that I walked through that back door 4 years ago when it was pointed out to me instead of thinking that I could be effective as a side-liner.

    • Richard says

      “…but rather a lack of opportunity to serve, fellowship, or relate with fellow believers in a manner the Holy Spirit encourages.” That is our story, Kent. Our church is in an afluent suburb. My wife and I are almost entirely exluded from singing on the Worship Team because, apparently, though very fit 50-somethings, we don’t fit the “hip” image the church wants to project. Also, the church talks about connecting, but it is filled with closed cliques, including the pastor. We send cards, ask others out to lunch after church, are very friendly … but we get very little back in return. I don’t think this describes an entitlement mentality. We moved here 8 years ago because of my job and we have no family within 600 miles. We’re just frustrated at not being allowed to use our spiritual gifts in our local church, and to put it bluntly, we’re really lonely. The people we know from work and the community are so much more loving and real than our “Sunday friends.”

      • Hal says

        Richard,
        It sounds as if you and your wife might be the victims of a church culture that is promoting an atmospere to attract the younger of society at the expense of neglecting the older age groups in the church. You mention the pastor, and I would venture to guess that he probably fits that younger set as well.
        This is all too often the case across our country; when church’s become so focused on seeking out the young and striving for an appearance of being hip in the community. Since typically the middle aged and elderly tend to be less vocal regarding their spiritual needs they can tend to be overlooked and disregarded in the church, with everyting that these folks tend to enjoy quickly falling by the wayside. Traditional vs contemporary music for example. We have all heard of church’s that start out with a mix of traditional and contemporary music only to see the traditional quickly take a back seat.
        Good leadership will strive to be constantly aware of the needs of all ages and make sure all are involved that want to be, and never at the expense of the others.
        Regarding service…….one thing I heard that just about made me fall of my chair was about a church that required people to actually audition in order to be accepted into the choir. I could not believe the arrogance of such a group! If a person feels the desire to sing praises to their God as a choir member they should be allowed to even if they cannot carry a tune in a bucket. The whole idea and purpose for a church choir is not for the purpose of impressing the congregation with voices like the Mormon Tabernacle. That flat, out of tune voice, from a dedicated servant probably sounds like REAL music to God’s ears vs the tuned and perfect voices of a clique of snobs.

  19. Seth Miller says

    Let me just say that I believe that Dr. Rainer is very astute in his assessment. Many Christians are missing the point of what it means to belong to covenant community in which they submit to the godly leadership in place. But I also believe it to be wise to address the similar problem that exists amongst church leaders. If pastors’ are prone to oversee a church for just a few measly years (2-3), why should we be surprised if the rest of congregation picks up the similar habit? I am currently serving a church and entering into my seventh year of service. Comparing myself to previous pastors, I have the second longest tenure in the church’s history (the first being eight years!). The problem is that my church is in proximity of a large Southern Baptist seminary. The church is not financially able to support most pastors, so it only attracts seminary students. Unfortunately, once they receive their M.Div., they are off to “bigger and better” churches. It is not coincidence that the time served by previous pastors directly correlates to the time to receive a degree. If some Christians see the church as a country club, then some seminarians see small churches as stepping stones to further ministerial career.

  20. Paul Hazelwood says

    . I personally do not expect anything from a church but I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t try to get me to go to their church by making some kind of implied promise as to what will happen if I start going. This has been my personal experience, so that may differ from yours or even anyone reading this. I have never in my life been invited to a church where the person asked me to come to help someone else. The invitation is always about being saved or being more personally fullfilled if I start going. If I do decide to go, then there is often the implication that I believe exactly as the church teaches. All the while, I would be under the impression that by conforming to their belief system I would indeed reap personal manifestations of healing, peace, etc etc. While it is good to inform people of the reality that a church organization really doesn’t have the power to do such things, Outside the church walls the expectations are likely being falsely built up long before someone makes a choice to give it a try.

  21. Jerry says

    We have some leave because of too much commitment. They end up going to what I heard someone call church like. A church where they can go Sunday morning and hear a good sermon and not have any commitment. I think it also means they can miss a Sunday and not have anyone notice
    .

    • Hal says

      Good point Jerry!
      I know of a couple that actually left a church after many years for that exact reason. Relatives of this couple told me that these folks were doing nearly everything in the church but preach and finally couldn’t take it any more. They were just exhausted and overwhelmed. Many in that church knew they were dedicated servants….and the rest of them let them……..
      On the other hand, I have actually been told by another couple in their 50′s that they chose the church they now attend because of its size, saying that it would be a church that would be easy to “Hide In”.
      Indicating to me that there are at least some that are attending your church that are not looking for areas of ministry and have no onterest in areas of ministry and will only begin looking for the back door when they are eventually asked to do something. These are the happily non-committed “Pew Warmers”, which every church has more than their share of.

  22. John Woodall says

    It is interesting to me and also very revealing that the discussion is not about leaving Christ, but more so leaving an institution. I think Heartspeak has stated that point precisely and with more depth. There seems to be an honest desire to serve the Lord, however serving the church not the Christ sounds more paramount in this post and it’s preceding comments. Paul dealt with that very issue in 1 Cor. 1 about how there was division over who baptized who. The conversion IS to Christ. For those that are they find themselves communing with others like themselves.

    • says

      John Woodall…Are you making an error of not “discerning the body of Christ” when you separate His local body, the so called institutional church, from Christ’s body. “It is interesting to me and also very revealing that the discussion is not about leaving Christ, but more so leaving an institution.” It is popular among many earnest believers today, to despise the local church of Jesus Christ for its many real and perceived flaws.

      • John Woodall says

        Pete,
        I’m not for sure if a local body of Christ actually exists. I understand there is one Lord, one faith, one body…Eph 4. You are assuming I’m desping some local body calling themselves after Christ. What I don’t find to be of value is what I’ve come to know of “church” and “going to church”. My point was to deal with the thrust of the article and address this idea of membership. Question, where in the Scriptures do you see an individual place membership? Or someone accept someone as a member of a group? How about the procedure of placing membership? Forms, questionairres, approval/denial process? Can you find a Scripture(s) to support this concept? How about transferring membership? How about removing membership from one person? All questions that are assumed they are based in Scripture, thus giving the institution birth.

  23. says

    God help us to be like Jesus…
    10 Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.11 For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.12 How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goes into the mountains, and seeks that which is gone astray?13 And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoices more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.14 Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.

  24. Vito says

    There are varied reasons people leave a body, as evidenced by the many comments. However, following the metaphor of the church being a “body”, closing the “Back door” is unhealthy. I believe the church should have an open and welcoming “back door” for things (people) that have entered which do not agree with that body: whether because the of doctrinal or philosophical disagreement. If you leave, just DO NOT be publicly divisive. IMHO

  25. Kris says

    Perhaps the comments to the blog are a microcosm of the issues with church membership. A good article, followed by subjective agreement and dissent; rabbits chased for topics irrelevant to the discussion; hurt and past failures carried into the mix; genuine desire to do more; great wisdom and a little foolishness and arguments based on Biblical truths and personal preference and depending on the side of the fence, a muddy line between wrong and right.

    Sound familiar? It should. It’s the state of the church. We’re trying to live out the Gospel and build disciples all the while trying to please people who may not necessarily be as serious about the same Gospel we preach, and certainly not as passionate. On the other hand there are entitled leaders with a superman complex not representative of Christ when he said he that is ong you that wants to be your leader, must first be your servant.

    We have an open back door in the church not always because of what’s happening inside it, but rather what’s not happening outside it. We’re trying to fix broken people from within the walls when many of them aren’t interested in a passionate commitment we both need and hope for from them,

    It’s not in or out, good or bad. We’re trying to fix this issue in our comments almost with an either-or mentality and it may really need to be a both-and.

    Let’s grow disciples AND let’s reach people who aren’t ready to commit but still have a place. And yes, you might lose some to the back door but the inward focused church will soon have no one else walking in it.

    I’m not trying to be a wordsmith. I love the article and I’m just ashamed of how Christians argue about how to fix everything when it doesn’t suit their liking, that’s all.

    Because the people on the other side of the door are watching us, and this is EXACTLY why some of them aren’t coming in. Ask them.

    Thom did.

  26. says

    I find it interesting that you give “I would not support the building program” as an example of entitlement mentality for those leaving a local congregation.

    It has been my experience that the building programs created by and for most local congregations are the HALLMARK of entitlement mentality.

    “I want a nice Sunday school area for my children, with good play equipment.”

    “I want a coffee bar so I can get boutique coffee between SS and Worship.”

    “I want a fitness center”

    And on and on. Nothing says “pay your dues and get a country club” like the building programs so popular for the last 20 years.

    And yet you point to those of us who object to God’s money being spent that way as the ones with an entitlement mentality? That rings false with me.

    • Thom Rainer says

      Katherine -

      Your point is well made. It was included in my blog to illustrate someone leaving because he did not get his or her way.

  27. says

    Thanks for this post. This is something that needs to be said – and said again. While those who suggest that this is a leadership issue have some point, as there is always a need for developing effective leaders, to assign the problem to leaders alone is to fail to address the culture of consumerism that exists in contemporary Evangelicalism.

  28. says

    Glad to see this matter addressed. In SBC circles– what are the numbers: 17 million members and about 5-6 million who even attend?– something is wrong at the core! You set forth some good and helpful points as to ‘closing the back door’– However, I believe the main problem is the common view of the FRONT DOOR… which you were at least ‘hinting at’ as you spoke of the ‘dumbing down of membership’…. BUT THE ROOT is the reality that in the average Evangelical/Bible-believing church pastors and personal workers lead folks to ‘say’ (supposedly pray) a prayer and then the person is PRONOUNCED SAVED. Rare are those who are waiting for the Holy Spirit to bring conviction, (John 16:8-11). Thus, there are too few true conversions. I fear that far too many are Baptists and other Evangelicals but not born again. For as long as I can remember, we have guaged our ‘success’ by the number of baptisms we have. Maybe we would do well to remember that the 5000 converts on the Day of Pentecost were folk who, because of the indwelling compelling of the Holy Spirit CONTINUED STEADFASTLY in Bible Study, Worship, etc.

  29. Kelly Riesenmy says

    It is valuable not to generalize the reason why people leave a church. For example, God may have work for them to do elsewhere. After all, the church grew as a result of people going different directions (Acts 15: 36-41). It is important for leadership and people in the church not to have an attitude that it must be the “other person’s problem.” Perhaps we as Christians need to spend time understanding and loving each other, praying for one another, and exploring ways to grow in caring for the Body of Christ. Having made those points, it is important not to lose sight of the valid points of the original post. We need to serve each other with grace and humility. To that end, let’s think the best of one another (1 Corin. 13:7), which is an area I am working on myself. We, as Christians, really need to stick together!

  30. ron johnson says

    I was listening to a sermon by the late Dr. Adrian Rogers, and he spoke of those who come to church and say to their friends after the service “Well, I just didn’t get anything out of the worship service this morning.” Well, let me share a little secret with you. “It’s not about you!” The question is “What did you bring to worship?” Of which I say Amen.

  31. roy valverde says

    I have pastored one church for 20 years, in Anaheim , Ca. People leave for many reasons. Remember, 6% of the population in your city will leave, move, or relocate, each year, which includes our churches. I have had reasons such as “Oh, well, I ‘m not growing”. I’m like, really? Though the leader never comes to trainings, classes, Leaves early from service. Then there’s the toxic” people. All we can do is love them. And steer them into the fellowship, and be helpers in ministry. Yet, at times if they persist. Finding negatives in everything. After being corrected, or instructed. Many times they’ll choose to leave. My wife in the past. Passed on due to cancer. I have now married 6 years after. Our new scenerio is this. I had a core of women leader’s who helped me pastor the women. Towards the end, they were not doing as great, as i had hoped. Now, I have my wife. Been married 11 months on the 18th of January. Just a loving, ministry minded gal. Well those same “faithful” women are having a hard time, understanding, or allowing my wife to lead, without being critical, in their subtle ways. Though she is in the ministry regardless. Has a good attitude, and continues to grow. I love them and their families. They have been in battle for the Lord, and me for a great season. Yet, it is a time of change. Good change. Now our church has a pastor’s wife. Though, I know my wife is still growing and adjusting. See, its one thing for those women, to be in a core and do the work of the ministry. Yet, now, they have someone who can see exactly what they’re doing. Whereas, I couldn’t do that. And they do not like that. One of the women, who has recently left, made a statement publically, which to me epitomizes their sentiment. “Well, I have been here for 19 years! And, I am not going to listen to her!” Though my wife doesn’t push her weight around. The issue with the woman is control. Yet, besides those, who have left. Hey, allow them to leave. If there’s issues that “you” must address. Then do it, privately with them. If there’s a wrong on your part. Be human and humble enough, to apologize. Yet, if they’re vehementl;y bitter. Love them. Encourage them. Be positive. Pray for them. But hold your ground. God has called you. You belong to Him. It is His work. Sad to say, those who we’ve been dealing with are those who’ve been around many years. Maybe its the 20 year itch. I don’t know. I had a couple recently, not married. Where the girl has been around for many years, and multiple churches. The guy is a new Christian, with potential for ministry. I had told my wife what was going to happen, because of their relationship. And it happened! Anyhow, when they approached me. I told her. For she is the power in their relationship. ‘Hey! God wants us to be happy! It’s ok to leave. May God bless you! The pastor over there is great. He’s a good man.” They simply stared at me in disbelief. Remember, as someone has said. Keep building. It took Noah 100 years of that. But then. it began to rain! God has a plan for you. For every person who leaves, God will bring multitudes, without an agenda. Maybe, not realizing? They are doing you a favor, in some cases. God has not called us to be bitter, and cynical, at the church’s every decision. He’s called us to be servants. If you must at times repioneer. Hey, no problem. Do it. For isn’t that what we’re called to do, in our whatever it takes mission? Anyhow, sorry for my long post. Maybe it’s because its the season I’m in. Yet, the best is yet to come. Thank you Thom, for the article. Been very helpful.

  32. David Sweet says

    one other idea: resurrect the church covenant…re-write it….involve the church in it…then adopt it…and ask everyone to sign or affirm it as a prelude to all new members doing the same after a new members class.

  33. Bonnie Beuning says

    The entitlement issue, though it’s maddening, should also evoke some compassion in the clergy and staff for a congregation containing individuals that’ve continually been rewarded with attention and favors for financial support or even service. The visibility of that continual practice infects generations of “prominent” families and the whole congregation. Congregation-blaming can be a knee-jerk response by leaders that is as unhekpful as church members saying, “We’ve always done it that way.”
    We must try and remember that many of the congregation (a word that too often stereotypes the individuals within it) are also sick and tired of the entitlement and preferential treatment that have become a practice in their church over the years.

  34. Randy Bowman says

    I was the founding Pastor of a church that grew to average attendances of 850, multiple staff, award winning facilities, yada, yada. We were very outreach oriented in the early days, but got away from it. Over time the church became more inward focused, a country club if you will. Aa the founding pastor with nothing but good will I thought I had enough chips in the bank (trust) and strong relationships to redirect the churches focus. I was wrong! I have often compared myself to the club pro – thought the members were my friends, trusted me, followed my leadership. One day the club pro shows up and announces to the club members that the mission of the club is changing. It will no longer exist exclusively to serve the needs of its dues paying members. We are going to become more outward focused, more like the salvation army.

    The members didn’t say anything or complain but in relatively short order they got rid of the club pro who had been serving them for 20 years and replaced him. I lived out the story of the little life saving station metaphor that became if the club on the beach with all the symbolism associated with a life saving station but few any lives were being saved. Balancing these tension in the church is an incredibly hard task, nearly impossible. For whom does the church exist? The outsiders have no voice, no vote and they don’t pay the bills.
    Three passed a war broke out between the XP and the board, the board resigned and left and eventually the church went out of business and the facilities were sold by the bank to another “life saving station.”

  35. Tim Lawing says

    I speak from experience. I was in the pulpit for over 17 years and then I walked out the back door. I was not waking away from the church. The reason people leave is because they are running away from God. I left because of selfish sin. I wanted my way, not God’s way. Why did the prodigal son leave his father’s house? That is why people leave the Church. Thank God I came to my senses and returned. For those that are leaving, PRAY that they come to their senses.

  36. Antonio Lopes says

    I am not a Pastor, but i am a Christian member of Presbiterian. As i am over 51 years old i was observed some phenomens would like to post and should be help one issue can be stay in all minds and reflect about that. I have found by myself with young pastors. My comments are not focused on the fact that they are young pastors. If you read Titus, understand that councils predicates by Titus, makes no reference to men, women or children, much less relation with the age of those who have the talent or that he was elected, chosen by the Lord to preach his word, but a line temperance, understanding and perseverance, this reasoned in their scriptures. But when it comes to rebuke many do so, in my view, misguided. What do using human power to reprimand? The strongly do? Imagine being scolded all weekends in front of everyone, like a child, as if there were not learned anything in life, nothing vivier community, nothing in relation to serve, not to lose humility, even in the midst of so spread around the world arrogance? Hear sermons like “if you think the Church eh a place to have peace, to seek refuge, this very wrong here … you will not hear things to calm your heart, here you will not find much comfort and less quiet. … ” Honestly, every time I read the Bible, I do not see this form of rebuke … I see the dissemination of the love of Christ …. the form that was part of the greeting of the Apostle Paul: “Grace and Peace” … think about that on the departure of church members, think about it and contain much temperance in being in the predications, in order to transmit the Gospel. This a small contribution, hopefully help pastors and brothers in Christ. Grace and Peace!

  37. says

    An excellent article. We’re all called to make disciples. If leaders aren’t (first) modeling this, and (second) equipping their members to follow the Great Commission, we’re missing the boat. Unfortunately, we’d rather “break off” of the local body and go somewhere that our “needs” can get met. This post inspires me though. I think of 2 things: John 6, and Ephesians 4. In John 6, we see people walk away from Jesus when he challenges their commitment. In Ephesians 4:16, Paul says “From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” We’ve got to realize the investment and accountability that being in the body of Christ requires. Again, great article!

  38. says

    Dr. Rainer,

    This is a well-stated post. Thanks for it.

    We have a word for the problem you’re referring to: “consumerism”. Consumerism is a massive hurdle. Part of this, of course, is because our culture is so broadly consumeristic that people have been trained to think, “I’ll do whatever works for me.” As many have said here (including yourself), we need to teach people to think differently than our culture. The church is a family, after all.

    But it is also hard to expect our people to do otherwise as long as our ecclesiological methodology reinforces that consumerism. What do our multiple services with demographically-tailored musical styles communicate if not, “You can have church your way”? When my church stops being “my way” then, what’s to stop me from getting up and finding one that is? And that is only one example.

    I suspect that we are now seeing the effects of the dominant church growth idea of 20+ years ago: the homogeneous unit growth principle. When we’ve custom-tailored our churches to the people, it is only reasonable to expect them to keep wanting custom-tailored churches.

    Anyway, again, great post. This is obviously a multi-faceted issue and I appreciate your wisdom here a lot.

    Andrew
    Someone Tell Me the Story

  39. says

    Why would people leave a church where the Pastor and 1st Lady serve as Covenant Partners with all new members. They call and pray for them each and every week, and teach New Members Orientation. The pastor knows 95% of all of his 587 members by name. He calls and prays for every member twice a year in January, and July. He never spends one dime of his love offering until he also calls and prays for every request that is placed on the envelope. He leads a godly lifestyle, and has not brought any shame or scandle on the church in his 25 years. He trains men for ministry, and teaches and preaches 4 to 5 times each week striving to nuture the people of God. Yet we still experience the Back door problem. Over 600 people have joined our church in the last 5 years but less than 100 have remained with this kind of hands on ministry. Some people tell me that they do not want a pastor who is connected with them at that level. Help me figure this one out!

  40. Lin (not my real name) says

    I’m a 30-something year old single woman and I’ve been part of the same church since I was a toddler. I also attended a fairly well known ultra-conservative college. The entitlement thing sounds familiar as I meditate on different reasons why people have left my church over the years. We have lost a lot of people in recent years; We’re just a fraction of what we were when I was a kid. We had the same pastor for 32 years; He retired and now travels preaching in other churches. The new pastor is someone who originally came to us close to 20 years ago when he was attending our local university. God called him to preach. Many years, a few churches, and three kids later, he’s now pastor.

    Some of the reasons I’ve heard include wanting to be in a church with a singles’ group, not liking our conservative standards. not liking the new pastor, wanting another pastor like our previous one (not understanding that there is no one else like him!), finding fault with everything, etc. etc. etc.

    It’s kind of interesting that you mention the entitlement thing because it reminds of a conversation I wish I had never been part of (even though there was really no way to escape it!). A woman whom I always looked up to was gripping about stuff in the church when she made a comment about reading the church constitution. She said that if people would read it, they would realize they are entitled to certain things. I did my homework and found no such thing. Shortly after that, this lady and her husband left the church, after they sowed a lot of discord and verbally attacked our pastor in front of the entire church.

    For people looking for a new church, I would recommend keeping a list of things that you need/want in a church. I think it would also be wise to keep a list of things you absolutely will not tolerate in a church. If you are going to leave a church, you should pray and seek wise counsel and only leave when you have clear direction from God to go somewhere else.

  41. says

    Dr. Rainer:

    Good thought provoking post as the comment trail (which I just read the WHOLE thing) indicates. As you stated their are valid reasons for separation and change and a short blog post, no matter how well written, can only scratch the surface.

    For those invalid reasons what has helped me in recent years to understand people and minister to them, as an elder in my church and long-time christian, has been the work of Tim Keller and CCEF (Christian Counseling and Education Foundation). Keller in his books and teaching along with CCEF training has helped me see how people deal with the idols in their lives, values they worship above God and Godly community. Thus as I understood the idols in my own life, that caused me to worship things tangible and intangible other than God, I could have compassion, while not condoning, the broken behaviors of people in my circles. And it gave me a language to both challenge and encourage.

    Therefore from an idols perspective, your analysis of an entitlement mentality is spot on. Entitlement is the idolatry of self. One way which I comprehend those entitlement decisions is along three lines, Religion, Relationships and Truth.

    Often, people leave because of the “religion” that is practiced or not practiced. It is a sub-culture and taste decision that is valued over relationships and truth. Also, people leave because of “relationship” issues whether with other members or leadership regardless of agreement in doctrine-truth. In both “religion” and “relationship” cases, people leave because they do not want to grow in grace, forgiveness, forbearance and service. Here the idols of power, control, comfort, and approval come into full play along with destructive emotions. The NT letters are very much about Paul and Peter imploring people to put love for each other above issues of “religion’ and problems in “relationships.”

    Are there churches that abandon the truth of the Gospel and thus force doctrinal dissent and separation? Yes, but in my travels within Christian circles, I’ve found this to be the exception rather than the rule.

    Keep up the good work!

  42. Mike cara says

    I pastored for many years. People have to follow their God and their conscience. I had rarely, in my opinion, seen people leave for ‘good’ reasons, but that’s on them. We all have to walk our own walk. People have their own needs and expectations, and when they feel they are not being met they seek to meet them elsewhere. Why wouldnt they? It is their life….their walk, and they have to walk it out. What do I do as a pastor? I preach the Word and serve the Sacraments. These are the means of grace, and these are the means whereby we grow up in Christ. I am not the Holy Spirit to them. I cannot keep them. Of course the leadership of the church should seek ways of ‘doing church’ in a biblical manner all the while. I preach the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit and leave the results to Him. And I try to follow Christ and hope that’s good enough for everyone else.

  43. says

    I agree with the premises but I think there are two things in play. For some it is an entitlement mentality, but for so many people it is a “Consumer Mentality.” They treat the church like a restaurant. Come when they are hungry, eat, of the “service”‘is good leave a tip, and then don’t bother coming back till they get hungry again. Or church is like a doctor, lawyer, mechanic, or any other business providing a service. A couple is getting married and need a pastor for the wedding so they start coming to church and after the ceremony they disappear, or a parent is dying with cancer so they start coming to get help through the crisis and because they need someone to do the funeral. Three weeks after the funeral they disappear….until the next crisis or event in their lives they need the services provided by the “church”.

    • Nancy says

      Your “Consumer Mentality” comment makes me wonder why some people are even in ministry. Why would you care for what reason they are coming to church if you really was in the ministry to be the extended hand of Jesus. It sounds like you only want the ones who are going to do everything like you want them to. By being there in their time of need, it may effect their soul in eternity even if the conversion comes many years later. I have said it many times before and I will keep saying it, the people in churches today do not love one another , because we do not see the love coming from the pulpits. If you love people you would be so honored to marry, them, bury them, or sit with them when they are ill. Nobody expects ministers to be super humans, but some have put themselves above their people . None threw hundred dollar bills at Jesus feet as he preached, and when it started in our churches, heads swelled. And the truth is, we can hear great sermons on our t.v’s that teach us Gods word, and we do not have a church who is building more building every year so they can be bigger than the one down the street. And we all know every member is expected to give far and beyond tithes for the building programs. By what you said about the weddings and funerals lets me know why as an older couple going to new church they are not even particulary friendly. Guess they are afraid we will die and they would be asked to do a funeral. Really sad.

  44. Heather says

    Isn’t the solution a bit simpler? Luke 6:31 says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” We can tell them that they should not act selfishly, but wouldn’t it be better if we showed them? If they say they aren’t being fed, should we tell them to be happy with the meager diet we are willing to give them and, if not, to feed themselves? Or, should we show them God’s unmerited and unconditional love and spread a lavish feast before His flock? If we could show them the face of Christ, wouldn’t they be astounded at how much God loves them? Wouldn’t they be amazed at how much their free gift of salvation cost God? Wouldn’t they finally learn that it is far better to give than to receive? If we need to complain, shouldn’t we take our complaints to God? But, should we? God can take away the burden from the church, but if He did so, the church would have far less opportunity to serve Him. Church members aren’t perfect, but they have to learn to love like God loves, and there is no better place for them to learn than in God’s church. Let’s not just tell them – let’s show them how.

  45. Dennis says

    My reason for leaving a church I had been an active member of for 11 years was the denomination’s (United Methodist) policy of “itinerant ministry.” A Bishop or District Superintendent assigns pastors to churches every year during “annual conference.” This is done “prayerfully based on the needs of the local churches and in consideration of the available pool of clerics.” Well, not really. It seems to be done on the basis of what churches are the most influential (read “most wealthy”) in the conference. Some churches keep their pastor(s) for many years while others get “re-assigned” every four years or so. If you’re in one of those churches you get a new pastor and everything changes just as the old pastor’s vision was beginning to be realized. There is little consistency from one pastor to the next. The mission and vision are always in flux, and nobody really knows which direction the church is moving in. After three “re-assigned pastors” in 10 years I’d had enough. I don’t have an axe to grind with the UMC. How they do things is their business. (and tradition) It just didn’t work for me OR for the local church I was a member of. It is in serious decline and may not be around in 5 years if there is not a solid turn around.

  46. says

    I think two things have to happen for a church to retain members: 1) New members need to be involved and have some sort of responsibility, whether it is teaching a class or updating the marquee. I think on some level, many people WANT to be involved in serving in some way. We all have different gifts, and it is a joy to be able to use them. 2) New members need to find a “group” they belong to. We all want community. When neither of those needs are met, it shouldn’t be a surprise when people leave. So, I see it as both a leadership and membership issue: if the leadership can’t find a role for new members to fill, and other members don’t accept newcomers into their community, it’s only natural that people will drift away.

  47. says

    This is an offensive blog to anyone who has served in the church, worked hard Monday-Friday and then turned around and served countless hours in the evening, and week-ends. While our pastors have Monday off-we do not. Who has the victim mentatlity here-the pastors and leadership, What a destructive sling at the church. Here is the “pew” perspective. Pastors and church leaders are a clique. They are no more servants of the body-they are paid professionals. They want high boundaries around their lives (as they preach about community), they do not want any unreasonable demands (as they preach about sacrifice), they want people to give sacrifcially (while they get pastors discounts, tax relief, places that will let them come and stay for free), they preach accountability (while they have none), and on and on it goes. They no longer recognize that people are out serving Jesus day in and day in their homes, at their office, in the hospitals, etc. The pastors are the ones who have defined as service as how much we work “inside the church”-that was never the Bliblical model. Sorry-this is disgusting,

    • Bob Gray says

      As a layperson who has spent much time in church work over the years, I appreciate your willingness to make the statements you have. Far too often, professional, paid church workers from pastor to custodian are the recipients of extreme favor – usually by well meaning congregants who are insecure and trying to work or buy their entrance to heaven. The problems you describe can be better understood if we look deeply into an AA directive to admit our part in the problem. It is easy for the layperson to see the self-service in the paid clergy. As a layperson, I must admit to occcasions when I either participated in or failed to confront the pampering of members of the clergy. The clergy is no more immune to the temptation to believe flattery and accept attempted bribery than are we non-clerical sinners. It is not unlike the quote from the old commercial for Shake-N-Bake: “We helped!” I suspect that you will be considered a rebel by making your statements publicly, but problems are never corrected without exposure. It is important for the congregation and laiety to be honest – and open with each other regarding perceptions and suspicions. Great problems become solvable in the light.

    • Jason Mahill says

      I’m not sure what experience you have had in church. I chose a path in ministry where I will be working full time and serving in ministry for the rest of my life. This is due to being called to serve in rural communities.

      While I have had the opportunity to serve with some great people who worked 40+ hours a week and also served as volunteers and mentors in children’s and youth ministry… usually between 5-10 hours a week. However, dedicated “lay leadership,” for lack of a better word, is a very, very short list.

      The vast majority of people in church that I know personally get severely bent out of shape if they are asked to help out with more than a Sunday and Wednesday schedule and there is little or no accountability. On the other hand, when I was “employed” full time as a youth minister, I never had Mondays off, and I can remember the phone ringing at 2:00 in the morning at times of crisis need.

  48. Phoebe says

    The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse; Recognising and Escaping Spiritual Manipulation and False Spiritual Authority Within the Church by D. Johnson and J Vanvoderen.
    If you google ‘spiritual abuse’ there are hundreds of sites on the subject with explanation.
    This is why people are leaving churches. Abuse.

    • Glorious Temple says

      Excellent response! IMHO … the list in the original article is far too general and very limited as to why people leave organized religion and their suggestion of possible solutions, although I can agree Thom has a heart that seeks to rectify …. May Father empower him according to HIS will and purpose.

      Truly Spiritual Abuse is one of numerous reasons and a major one. Back in the 1980′s, “The Shepherding Movement” was prevalent, for example, (why I was led out). Those who started this movement have repented openly, via Charisma Magazine.

      Many who ‘go to church’, do so looking to ‘hear from God’ or because someone tells them, ‘come to our church, we have a great out reach ministry, or come to my church we have a worship worship service, or Sunday School, or…… whatever it is the person inviting them likes best about their Church. I would suggest if he does not do so, that Thom would find out the ‘expectations’ and encourage those who are a part of their ‘church family’ to do the same and possibly use that as a starting point.

      Many begin going because they are have dysfunctional ways of being and thinking and are in need of having the spirit of their minds renewed and some ‘assume’ they are ‘suppose’ to go to ‘find God’ or ‘to get saved’, or ‘to learn the bible’ or because to do so is what you do to be saved, ect ect ect. There are as many ‘assumptions’ as their are people.

      When those in Leadership abuse their role, (either as wolves in sheep’s clothing, or due to deception), they leave behind many who say they will never go to Church again. Let us never say never because Bless You Father, Jesus is the Author and Perfecter of our Faith and the Holy Spirit is our Teacher and Father has an unfolding plan.

      Many who do not ‘attend’ Church have servants hearts and the Holy Spirit within them is moving in loving ways through them to reach those in the “Market Place”, (as Ministers of Reconciliation) crossing their paths with the ‘family of God’. Such ones are growing under Father’s gentle hand one on one, as they are conformed into the Image and Likeness of His Son and are empowered/equipped with His Spirit of Truth… they are seeking to Love as they would be loved, they are seeking the Spirit of God to Teach them and empower them, they no longer look to man or an ‘institution’ which is full of inherited traditions of men; many of which go unquestioned, due to preconditioning.

      Some who have been abused now move with the gift of healing. Some have the gift of spiritual discernment operating through them and through the Holy Spirit as their Teacher, are empowered to expose false Teachings. Some of them are a vital part of their community feeding and clothing and visiting those in need, praying as moved, without having to be taught ‘of men’ to do so, they have a Pastor’s heart (Or Teacher, Evangelist, Apostolic, or Prophetic Heart) and are moved by motivational gifts without having to be ‘trained of men’ or having to have an “Official Title” or the Financial support of men to do so.

      Father led them out ‘of the back door’ because some ‘Churches’ are teaching “religion” and dead works putting burdens on the people they were called to equip, because their Leaders are blind to the reality they themselves serve with a “Pharisaical Spirit” and in the doing have not entered into the Kingdom of God nor are they encouraging others to enter into HIS rest; too often they leave them feeling ‘condemned or heavy in heart for they can’t ‘do enough’ to please Father. Such a one often feels ‘disconnected’ from their ‘head’ Christ. In such cases the body of Christ is not built up but torn apart.

      “He also gave apostles, prophets, missionaries, as well as pastors and teachers as gifts to his church. Their purpose is to prepare God’s people to serve and to build up the body of Christ. This is to continue until all of us are united in our faith and in our knowledge about God’s Son, until we become mature, until we measure up to Christ, who is the standard. Then we will no longer be little children, tossed and carried about by all kinds of teachings that change like the wind. We will no longer be influenced by people who use cunning and clever strategies to lead us astray. Instead, as we lovingly speak the truth, we will grow up completely in our relationship to Christ, who is the head. He makes the whole body fit together and unites it through the support of every joint. As each and every part does its job, he makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

    • says

      Excellent response! IMHO … the list in the original article is far too general and very limited as to why people leave organized religion and their suggestion of possible solutions, although I can agree Brother Thom has a heart that seeks to rectify …. May Father empower him according to HIS will and purpose.

      Truly Spiritual Abuse is one of numerous reasons and a major one. Back in the 1980′s, “The Shepherding Movement” was prevalent, for example, (why I was led out). Those who started this movement have repented openly, via Charisma Magazine.

      Many who ‘go to church’, do so looking to ‘hear from God’ or because someone tells them, ‘come to our church, we have a great out reach ministry, or come to my church we have a wonderful worship service, or fantastic Sunday School, Youth Group or…… whatever it is the person inviting them likes best about their Church. I would suggest if he does not do so, that BrotherThom would find out the ‘expectations’ of their visitors and encourage those who are a part of their ‘church family’ to do the same and possibly use that as a starting point.

      It has been my observation over the past 50 years many begin going to a church (not even sure which is the right one if they were not raised in church or already have the habit to do so) because they are have dysfunctional ways of being and thinking and are in need of having the spirit of their minds renewed and as seekers go to church for help initially and some ‘assume’ they are ‘suppose’ to go to ‘find God’ or ‘to get saved’, or ‘to learn the bible’ or because to do so is what you are suppose to do to be saved, ect ect ect. far to many reasons to ever be listed. There are as many ‘assumptions’ as their are people.

      When those in Leadership abuse their role, (either due to deception or as wolves in sheep’s clothing), they leave behind many wounded who say they will never go to Church again. Let us never say never because Bless You Father, Jesus is the Author and Perfecter of our Faith and the Holy Spirit is our Teacher and Father has an unfolding plan whereby He keeps us in the faith as the ‘church who is a living spiritual organism’, even those who do not measure up to the standard the “American Church System” projects is the ‘right one’, to the ‘world’.

      It has been my observation many who do NOT ‘attend’ Church have servants hearts… the Holy Spirit within them is moving in loving ways through them to reach those in the “Market Place”, (as Ministers of Reconciliation) crossing their paths with the ‘family of God’ for fellowship in the Spirit, (outside of a church environment). Such ones are growing under Father’s gentle hand one on one, as they are conformed into the Image and Likeness of His Son and are empowered/equipped with His Spirit of Truth… they are seeking to Love as they would be loved, they are seeking the Spirit of God to Teach them and empower them, they no longer look to man or an ‘institution’ which is full of inherited traditions of men; many of which go unquestioned, due to preconditioning … many of which teach ‘theory’ and/or ‘doctrines’, which have become corrupt and leave those who are seekers confused, hence another reason they leave seeking His Truth for themselves elsewhere. Truly the face of the Church is changing, it is becoming more Christ like: http://www.enterrest.com/Gods_Vision_For_His_Church.htm

      Some who have been abused, now move with the gift of healing having been healed. Some have the gift of spiritual discernment operating through them and through the Holy Spirit as their Teacher, are empowered to expose false Teachings. Some of them are a maturing vital part of their community feeding and clothing and visiting those in need, praying as moved, without having to be taught ‘of men’ to do so; they have a Pastor’s Heart (Or Teacher, Evangelist, Apostolic, or Prophetic Heart) and are moved by motivational gifts without having to be ‘trained of men’ or having to have an “Official Title” or the Financial support of men to do so, because Christ as their Head, is operating through them as the part of the ‘body’ they are connected to.

      In some cases, Father led them out ‘of the back door’ because some ‘Churches’ are teaching “religion” and dead works (seeking to earn Fathers unconditional love), putting burdens on the people they were called to equip, because their Leaders are blind to the reality they themselves serve with a “Pharisaical Spirit” and in the doing have not entered into the Kingdom of God nor are they encouraging others to enter into HIS rest; too often they leave them feeling ‘condemned’ or heavy in heart for they can’t ‘do enough’ to please Father. Such a one often feels ‘disconnected’ from their ‘head’ Christ. In such cases the body of Christ is not built up but torn apart.

      Some in Leadership forget it is Christ who makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. They see their role more important than need be, forgetting ALL are servants of Christ through Christ within…. this does NOT seem to be the case with Bro Thom …. thus I rejoice with our Father that he is seeking HIS wisdom. My prayer for him is he has a listening heart and encourages the family of God he is connected to to have the same, lest they get caught up in ‘working’ for God rather than serving as the Bride of Christ:
      http://www.enterrest.com/Receiving_A_Listening_Heart.htm
      “He also gave apostles, prophets, missionaries, as well as pastors and teachers as gifts to his church. Their purpose is to prepare God’s people to serve and to build up the body of Christ. This is to continue until all of us are united in our faith and in our knowledge about God’s Son, until we become mature, until we measure up to Christ, who is the standard. Then we will no longer be little children, tossed and carried about by all kinds of teachings that change like the wind. We will no longer be influenced by people who use cunning and clever strategies to lead us astray. Instead, as we lovingly speak the truth, we will grow up completely in our relationship to Christ, who is the head. He makes the whole body fit together and unites it through the support of every joint. As each and every part does its job, he makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

  49. John Simpson says

    Lack of feeding a servant can cause that servant to leave the congregation (local church). Many years ago I was a member of a small (about 30 members) American Bapist Church in the California desert. I was Chairman of the Deacon Board, Church Treasurer, and teacher of the adult sunday school. About a year after we had hired a new pastor, I realized that my roll was all input and not being fed at all. The pastor was not preaching sermons that spoke to my needs or the needs of my family. As a result I started a search for a new church home. I visited about half of the churches in town — I even enjoyed a couple of months of services with the local Church of Christ congregation, but could not stay with them because of doctrine. Eventually, we moved our membership to the local Southern Bapist Church, with a membership of over 500 people. The pastors there fed us spiritually, and I eventually became one of the adult sunday school teachers and shortly before moving from the area became a deacon at that church.

  50. Henry Ruger says

    I switched to a new church, same denomination, nearer my home, and volunteered for the Evangelization Committee and the Personnel Committee. There had been a call for volunteers for the latter during service, and my many years of hiring and managing seemed to make me a good match.

    I got no responses, no interest in my serving.

    I switched back to my old church.

  51. says

    Great post, Thom! The church (the people of God, not the buildings) live in a consumer-driven culture. Unfortunately, we have absorbed that paradigm, uncontested, as true. Thus, our behaviors follow the pattern of a consumer even with our church involvement. As you point out, the only antidote to this culture is through a deeper understanding of God’s plan for His church, as made clear in Scripture. Of course, we don’t see the Bible calling us to be God’s “consumers” but servants of God and each other. Our focus needs to turn outward (servanthood), rather than remain inward (what have you done for me lately?).
    Pax,
    Joel Lund

  52. says

    I find it funny that no one comes on and says, I left a church once because I was a selfish jerk. So, I will. I left a church once because I was a selfish jerk. Years later and now people leave the church I lead. Sometimes, it’s because they are selfish. Sometimes it is because a mistake made in the leadership (including, but not limited to my many mistakes). But I’m learning from Bonhoeffer that a person’s wish dream of the church has to be destroyed by the grace of God. I’m learning that we have to love the church with all our faults and stupid decisions instead of loving our ideal of church. As I understand this more and more, I realize that the 1,000s of mistakes we make as a church, within church leadership and within the body of Christ as individuals reveals how desparately we all need Jesus Christ.

    I’d be interested in posters who have left churches in the past and who now say, “Yeah, that one was totally understandable, but still, it was on me.” I’ve been there. But I haven’t found (or lead) an adequate–much less perfect–church yet. Thing is, I gave up looking for that. Now, I’d like to sing and pray. Hear some Word. Throw myself at the foot of the cross–especially each time I find myself thinking I’m better than someone else, that I have a better theology or understanding of the Bible or whatever. Lord, help us all.

    • Thom Rainer says

      Jay -

      Your response humbled me and convicted me. Your words demonstrated both transparency and humility. Thank you for being my teacher today.

    • Renae says

      That is the fundamental problem right there. What I have found in the world is most of the time when someone makes a mistake or behaves badly they take responsibility for that their mistakes/behaviors/strongholds and then they try to fix it. I should also note that most of the people that I spend time with are also well-adjusted. However, what I have found in the church is people make excuses for their mistakes/strongholds/behaviors and then say there is nothing they can do about it until God changes them. You just have to accept them just as they are because of God’s grace. It is time for the body of Christ to grow up and stop trying to abuse and hide behind the grace of God.

      There is a way which seems right to a man and appears straight before him, but at the end of it is the way of death. (AMP) Proverbs 14:12

  53. Elizabeth says

    I think that the majority of the time….this is the case. However, it was not the reasoning for our family. We left the church we had been attending for almost 3 years because of the blatant hypocrisy being preached. It wasn’t the Gospel. It was a gospel bent around the Pastor’s political beliefs. It literally made me sick to my stomach. I know that this is prevalent in our churches today and it has no place there.
    I will agree with the majority here though that leadership is the key. Empowering your leaders to create more leaders. Discipleship! Too many churches are just a social group for like minded people. It’s all about them and their preferences. When in reality the church is to help seek and save what is lost. It’s a hospital for the sick. Only difference is when the sick get back on their feet they desire to extend the same grace and mercy that was shown to them to other people looking to be healed and set free. That’s how you build Kingdom minded churches.

    • Thom Rainer says

      Elizabeth -

      You are correct. There are many other reasons beyond my stated reason in this blog. And your reason is certainly valid. Thank you for your faithfulness.

  54. Mike E. says

    I’m a single person in my 40s who was a member of a church which I regularly attended for two years.
    Because of a personal issue I was unable to attend for four months. No one noticed my absence. I pointed this out to an elder but was brushed off. I needed guidance and encouragement (maybe even chastisement) but was left to fend for myself. Shortly thereafter I decided to leave the church.

  55. Randy Chestnut says

    Thank you, Dr. Rainer. If we get people to attend our church, using a consumer-driven strategy, why should we be angry at them and shocked when they leave, since they have found a better product? I have seen this in church planting, as we market our new church as “cooler than your grandma’s church”. I think much of this comes from our “upside-down” mentality of wanting to “do church” , more than “be church”. How much of the average church’s time, energy, staffing and budget goes toward the two hour, Sunday morning event? The early church did have an attraction, but the attraction was not an event, but in their genuine devotion to Christ and a loving, caring and giving of the lives to one another and the world around the. This produced favor with God and man.

  56. says

    Bill Hybels said this in a recent interview. Thought it was pertinent to the conversation around retaining members:

    “In the early days of Willow, when someone showed spiritual movement we would congratulate them and point them toward a ministry where they could serve or a group where they could get to know other people. But we didn’t instill a strong awareness that, more than anything, people need to know how to relate to God through his Word, and how to hear His prompting. How to navigate a day with Him in your head, in your heart, at your side—and all of that. It’s a deep regret I carry.”

  57. says

    Thom, thanks for writing this post. I agree with it completely, but I see some real challenges I’m hoping you and others can address.

    We in the U.S. live in a consumerism culture, and so most churches speak the language of consumerism when marketing their church or even individually invite their friends to church. We talk about how inspiring the music is, how powerful the preaching is, how engaging the children’s ministry is, how much God and our church can help them experience a more fulfilling life. I’m not sure that there’s anything wrong with this, but the end result is almost everyone who enters a church door does so motivated by self-interest. And certainly if were trying to reach unbelievers, this is what we should expect from someone who is not following Jesus.

    But then once someone starts participating in church we want to teach them “It’s not about you.” That is certainly the truth, but… First of all, it’s no wonder that people get stuck in the “what’s in it for me mindset” when it sounds like we’re regularly trying to sell people on what’s in it for them. Second, trying to change people’s mindset feels an awful lot like a bait-and-switch. How can churches appeal to the needs of unbelievers and challenge people towards self-sacrifice at the same time?

  58. Wayne DesLattes says

    It primarily is a leadership issue. Un-use, misuse, abuse or neglect of people(the Sheep)…all of which call the pastor/leaders to be better and more than are…which means a greater true reliance upon Christ and that leader’s humility & submission to change. We need to fix us first before we can help fix them.

  59. Wounded Warrior says

    The problem is more basic – the church has become an endless fountain of meaningless platitudes. We tell the unemployed people that “Jesus loves you” and then walk away unconcerned that they cannot find survivable work. We elect wealthy “businessmen” to church leadership positions and don’t understand why their employees stop attending the church. We violate what is taught in the Bible while following the latest business management and marketing fads. The actions of Christians in endorsing the political “right wing” while ignoring the sins of greed, maliciousness and hostility towards morals held by those politicians contribute to the losses in the church. When we say we are for the “right to life” but only apply that to the unborn we are showing hypocritical values. If a person has a right to be born, shouldn’t we also be concerned that they also have a right to receive the medical care necessary to stay alive?
    Some of the reasons mentioned by others are valid, but demanding that overworked people do more in the church isn’t going to work. We’re already trying to work multiple low paying jobs just to survive – and the church doesn’t seem to care about our life struggles. All we hear is “Work harder in church” or “give more money” from those well “ministers” who make quite a bit more than we do and who seem to be “grazing on the flock” instead of leading it!

  60. says

    You are spot on with this blog. I have been at my current Pastorate for 4 years and have been using the tools you listed to gently move my congregation from this intitlement mentality. I have seen three groups emerge from this effort. The first group understands that the move from intitlement to servant is an issue of survival. Not only of survival but for growth. They are clearly on board. The second group is unclear about the need to change. They will trust you to a point but need lots of your time to ask questions. They may move from this group to group 1 or group 3. Your ministry before them will lead them to group one. The third group sees your efforts as an affront to tradition and to the very history of the Church. They follow 3 paths. They will remain and attempt to stop your efforts, they will remain and be apathetic or they will move on. Those that move on will nearly always move to a Church that will satisfy their need to be in the intitlement environment. I believe the intitlement mentality must be addressed in a broader way.

  61. Renae says

    I have read many of the post and I agree it really has to do with the attitudes of those on the top. As a secular college professor I noticed that you listed one of the reasons for leaving a church is because someone is not getting fed, which you consider to be entitlement. I do not believe that this is entitlement. These people are going to hear the Word of God and if they leave malnourished or famine week after week what good did it do for them to spend their time there. I have a responsibility to my students to teach them something. That is why they are in my classes. The students pay a lot of money to learn and when they are in my presence that is exactly what they should be doing. If not then I need to do a better job as a teacher.

    If the church expects people to be there for them than they should be there for you if not, it will definitely led to burnout and resentment, which is what I have seen reading many of these post. Personally I quit church and moved onto to make sure that my needs were met. It is not the churches responsibility to meet my needs that responsibility lies with me. If churches are lacking love I have found that someone else will provide me with the genuine love that I need. You actually made me laugh, because a country club is exactly where I was able to find the support, genuine love, and fellowship that I needed that was missing in the church. I would rather take my tithes and offerings and pay my dues any day of the week. Who knows maybe they are also Christians who have left churches. I know one thing they have a lot of spiritual fruit :-). There is always something going on almost daily. They follow-up and contact you and everything.

    • Thom Rainer says

      Renae -

      We who lead churches need to read your comments closely. I think we can learn a lot from your perspectives.

      Thanks for taking time to comment.

      • Renae says

        Dr. Rainer,

        You are welcome anytime. It is not about entitlement. I believe that people are more bible literate than they have ever been. I know personally I have study and read bibles from cover to cover many times. You read about the church in Acts and you look up and say I want to be a church like that. The Acts church was very unique, because the people stuck together and work together. It was not every man, woman, and child for themselves like you see now, but this was written that it would happen in the last days.

        I remember very clearly that the people were so concerned about Peter when he was in jail that they would not even let him in the house when he was outside because they were praying so hard for him. The Acts church was a not selfish church. There would never be a need for me to go elsewhere to meet my needs if I could have found what I needed inside of a church. I spent years praying about it that God would lead me to a place where I could grow and thrive, not burnout, as well as, be a blessing to those around me. This was the place that I was lead. Just as Dinah could not find what she was looking for in the house, she went out and Shechem came. It was a bad thing in a way, but whose fault was it? One thing about Shechem he loved Dinah even as Jacob had not loved her mother.

        The gifts and callings are without reproach. Not being in a church does not mean that I cannot be a witness for Christ if anything I can now reach those who need me the most. It does not mean that I have fallen into sin as some of the comments mentioned above. That is another post in itself; because my salvation is not based on my church attendance my salvation is based on my relationship. When I get to Heaven I will have to give account for my own soul and actions.

        Have a Great Day,
        Renae

    • tlk says

      I wish I could email you separate of this blog. I find much similarities in what you discuss. It is rather sad that one kind find more fellowship, genuineness, and authenticity in secular life areas/domains than that of a church organization/congregation. Perhaps, one day, those of us who have recognized this can gather and become a body in Christ that represents such characteristics? I pray.
      Thank you for being authentic.

  62. Thomas Hunnicutt says

    Dear Brother Thom,
    The “open back door” — how many decades have we been talking about this in the Church? We keep naming “trees” in the “forest” but the “forest” seemingly continues to be ignored. Look at the seven “direct quotes”. Look at the Main Reason: “an entitlement mentality rather than a servant mentality”. What do these scream to us?
    ARE THE PEOPLE WHO LEAVE REALLY SAVED?
    The question is NOT “Why did you leave?” The question IS “Why are you here?” … and that question applies equally to leadership and congregation members. 2nd Corinthians 13:3b-5 is instructive.
    In that light the 5 suggested steps at the end of the article take on new meaning. Especially in Steps #1 and 2 if we change “church membership” to “salvation in Jesus Christ.” I know it is difficult to think that John 3:16-18, 36 and Romans 10:9-11 can be “dumbed down” but it happens all the time. And the results are those open back doors.
    John 14:15-17, 15:5.
    The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
    PS – In referring to people who leave I am not including those led by the Holy Spirit to go and serve in another church. That happens … usually after a long period of prayer and discussion and with an open explanation as to why they are going.

  63. says

    Wow, I even read entitlement in the comments.

    Here’s what I’ve learned:
    1. It’s about others not me.
    2. I need to be a big boy and feed myself.
    3. I treat my church like every problem is my responsibility, no one else’s.
    4. Since I’m crucified with Christ, I don’t have opinions. What matters is that Jesus becomes famous and people come to know Him. If I get ignored, great! That means people aren’t taking up their time with me when so many more are dying, headed to hell.

    Paul

  64. onesheep says

    So the gist of this message is: Its the sheep’s fault. Those bad sheep are just spoiled and entitled and didn’t want to serve. If the sheep have wrong ideas about what consititutes biblical christianity, then its those who teach that ought to examine themselves; pastors, if your sheep still think its all about them exclusively after attending your church for several months, better take a second look at how truly bibical your teaching is! I do agree that entitlement is a problem today; scripture does say that in the last days men will be lovers of self, boastful, proud, arrogant, revilers, etc. But the gospel properly taught confronts sin. It would be wise to make sure the sheep are leaving because they are truly refusing to accept solid biblical teaching that confronts sin and brings repentance and not because they don’t know the difference due to lack of that teaching.

    How about folks leaving churches because of a lack of integrity in leadership? I cannot tell you how many times I have seen pastors sin against people for no other reason that that the person somehow seemed to trigger some undealt with issue in the pastor’s life. I know one pastor whose first wife left him. He became involved in “counselling” a couple who came to his church. The couple had both been divorced before. He decided the wife was “just like” his ex wife and another woman whom he disliked and began to treat the husband as if he was the pastor’s best buddy and golden boy, and treat the wife in a way that can only be characterized as spiritually abusive. The wife respectfully confronted him after quietly enduring this for some time, in a biblical manner. He openly “dissed” her in a way intended to let her know how insignificant she was. He did not acknowledge his sinful behaviour or his issues but actually began taking cheap shots at the wife from the pulpit. The couple left the church as a result. Abusing his pulpit to spank folks he disagreed with was fairly common. Yet this man had cultivated an image of near sainthood in his community and had followers singing his praises. This kind of behaviour is quite common despite almost universal denial in the christian community. One wonders why it is that such as these, who preach the gospel are unable to preach it to themselves in such a way that when there is some out of control flesh, it is recognized as such. Why do these not know how to bibically examine themselves? One wonders just what is being taught in today’s seminaries that so many men are entering the ministry as a way to obtain the validation they seem to be in want of or as a way to make their mark on the world. Perhaps a few generations ago, it would have been reasonable to assume that most likely the pastor was a godly man, and the complainant just someone who wasn’t admitting to having a problem attitude, because some years ago, the church wasn’t infiltrated with psychology and feminism but was usually pretty solid bibilcally. Many pastors today autmoatically refer troubled sheep to professionals for counselling issues and not even christians fairly often. What do you make of that except unbelief that scripture is sufficient? My point is that before you go conveniently blaming the sheep, lets make sure we aren’t following the all too common tendency of christians to be allergic to reality and to prefer denail and avoidance, ie emperor’s new clothes.

  65. June says

    So glad you brought into your great info about small groups. Whether it’s Sunday School class or greeting or mentoring, the most nurturing I have found was through fellowship in small groups. I also think you absolutely have to have leadership with a servant heart. Jesus, the Son of God, showed us all what a leader should do first and that is to serve. Through leadership showing a servants heart while that serve gladly (as opposed to grumpily) and fellowship though small group(s), a member is more connected; often serves in some way through that group and that connection helps keep them coming back. I have never become a member of a church without first getting involved in a small group, usually Sunday School only at first. I am 61 years old and have only been a member of 3 different churches in my life and those involved moving as being the only reason for changing. Had I not served or not been nurtured, would I have stayed? No, I probably wouldn’t have ever settled in and taken root.

  66. says

    I teach Pastoral Theology at Piedmont International University. I plan on sharing your five steps on closing the back door with our future pastors. Thanks for the insight.

  67. Sandee says

    I think people leaving the church can be caused by the parishioners, the leaders and God. People are people with issues, hurts, needs as well as gifts talents and skills that require leadership. As a teacher, I once was told, if a majority of your students are not getting the grades, then you must look to the teacher. It is the teacher/leader’s responsibility that they somehow “get it”. Then sometimes, God does lead people from a church to another – and we may never know why because his ways are higher than ours.

    Still as leaders, we look continually for the best venues to keep our people from drifting out the back door – such as in small group ministries where people get into each others lives. We have led/taught small groups for over 3 decades and this really does make a huge difference in keeping the back door closed. One of the comments above was that the leaders never helped or ministered to a person in need – and this is part of what the small groups are for. We hear specific prayers and concerns in small groups. In a small groups we know when someone is hungry, thirsty or in need of shelter – or simply needs a hug. If our small group can’t do it alone, the leader turns to their leaders for direction and help.

    I understand the “entitlement” thing as well – it is out there. Still, when someone is alone, hurting or depressed – they need someone to come alongside – I don’t see this so much as an entitlement issue; but as a lack of caring from leaders on some level. When we choose leaders, are we making sure (caring enough?) to ensure we have a fair blend of the Spiritual Giftedness amongst our leaders? If someone is in need and no one offers love and caring support in a tangible way – I would say, yes, it is easy to suddenly realize as the needy person, that you are alone. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to know that a lack of attentiveness would not be hurtful – and not in God’s plan. The hurt person sees the hypocrisy – why should they stay?

    We also need to find proper responses for when they do leave – but in any ministry, this will occur. In a sense, leaders carry their own sense of entitlement and get defensive when folks leave. Once a couple left because they realized living so far – 50 -60 minutes away did not allow for their family to get properly involved. So they sought a closer congregation. This is legitimate – yet, they called and told the pastor and he was cold and huffy. Good grief, folks.

    We need to be leaders – provide the infrastructure – and let go with love when necessary.

  68. Angie says

    When leadership has an “entitlement” mentality themselves, then the sheep are sure to follow. I agree with this post. Leadership is called to equip people, God’s people for the work of the ministry. That they to may lead in their homes, communities etc. Get to really connect with your congregation, don’t assume that if they don’t attend every service, that they are not faithful. Guess what maybe they don’t have gas. food or maybe they need to put their child to be early to get to school the next day. The list can go on.

  69. KDeanna says

    This article left me wondering about the many pastors who leave churches. They will say that they are being ‘called’ or something similar but so often those ‘callings’ are to larger churches, or to churches offering a higher position (such as from youth or assistant pastor to lead pastor), or to a more interesting ministry opportunity – all of which seems a lot like what us laypeople would simply describe as career advancement. Yes, church members do leave churches for greener or better pastures, or pastures more to their liking, but pastors quite frankly, do also. I also was left wondering about pastors who feel great entitlement to the lives, time, and finances of their congregation. I spent many years in a church in which the pastors insisted that as God’s anointed they were entitled to slavish attention and service. We cooked, cleaned, shopped, shoveled snow, mowed and manicured lawns, provided child care, maintained and repaired vehicles, groomed pets, etc. for them because we were taught they were worthy of this and that the service would help us to be more like Jesus, the ultimate servant. We also were required to give significant portions of our income (far beyond a tithe). It was all about proper stewardship and recognizing that God owns all we have, but it worked out to keep them abundantly well provided for while many of us had to utilize the community food bank in order to somehow keep our households together and our families fed. You are very right about the attitude of entitlement, but it is not just a church member problem which pressures and wears out pastors. Pastors also sometimes operate with a sense of entitlement which fatigues, discourages, and burns out church members.

  70. says

    Maybe some people leave the “worldly, religious, man-made, man operated, business so named “church,” becaues the Holy Spirit guided them into the truth. Maybe “some” are actually being led by the Spirit, and not by the world and the way of the world. 1 John 1:1-4; John 14:15-17; John 16:13; Romans 8:14

  71. Olivia says

    I am on the verge of giving up on church and actually my faith and need help so badly. Thing is I love God, love worship and love being in His presence but for a very long time now I have has some really bad experiences with church especially my spiritual head that make me wonder whether God still loves and cares for me and whether He still considers me as His child because I look to my pastor as God’s rep and/or mouthpiece and I literally take it as what he does is endorsed by God. Lately, my pastor has been almost very cold towards me. It started about a year and a half or more ago and has just escalated. My family members have noticed it too. When this treatment started I went to him and asked if I had offended him in any way to which he answered that I hadn’t. I work in the children’s ministry, praise and worship team and in the up and coming dance ministry. I am the only person he treats that way in my teams, he is very involved in lives of the others wanting to know how they are doing with various projects but just shuns me and I just get discouraged every time I am around him or spend some time around him because of this cause it just feels like you are being told without words to ‘go away’ and you are of no importance or consequence or almost like he has something against me. His wife lately has also started treating me that way. I already have been treated with contempt and despised at home and still live in these conditions and there is no where to go or turn to. I go to bed in tears and wake up in tears and just feel so much sorrow and pain from being treated so badly by others especially my spiritual authorities cause I never dreamt they would or could do that and I am just so discouraged Trusting people and being open and vulnerable to people right now just scares the living lights out of me so I have kind of become withdrawn and my self confidence and esteem right now is at the lowest point in my life. I am scared to change church too cause I don’t know where to go and what to expect plus I have been here so long and developed roots and all….feels like being in a bad marriage to me. I need help seriously so I can hold onto my faith.

    • Renae says

      Olivia I am so sorry to hear that you are experiencing such pain in a church and at home, because God’s intended purpose for churches was not to cause pain and emotional abuse. However, I can speak to it, because I have also experienced similar treatment in churches and by Christians. I actually had a pastor do a Simon Peter denial of me as he had done Jesus even though on three separate occasions he ensured me that he would be there for me. He did it multiple times, because I would not extend him any trust initially. Over time I extended him some trust as he earned it. Once he had establish some trust he did me just like Simon Peter and denied me except he was not in the garden he was in my face and acted like he did not know me. He was a hot mess.

      First and foremost, I want you to know that God still loves you. Nothing can stop the love that God has for us. Paul said it correctly nothing can separate us from the love of God. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39 NIV

      Secondly, I want you to know that the pastor is not God they are just human beings and are subject to make mistakes and sin. You would think that they would act more like God, but it is not always true. They get caught up in life just like everyone else and start spending less and less time with God and you begin to see more flesh than spirit. Take for example King Saul. At first he treated David well only to later pursue him and try to kill him repeatedly until his death.

      Lastly, the one scripture that has helped me the most through it all is a portion of Song of Solomon 6:3 NKJV “I am my beloved’s, And my beloved is mine.” Persecution especially persecution in particular emotional abuse in churches and by Christians tries to make you lose your identity. As believers we need to know who we are for ourselves and our identity should not be tied up into anyone else, because people can and do fall short. The moment that they do if our identity is tied into anyone other than God we will stumble and fall.

      I saw that you work with the children. I have also worked in children’s church and understand the attachment and responsibility associated with working with young people. I am encouraging you not to fear anything, because God did not give you a spirit of fear, but instead of power and a sound mind. I will stay prayerful for you about your situation. If you research emotional abuse you will find plenty of resources that may be helpful for you. Copyrighted 2013 Renae Mintz

  72. Ken Monaghan says

    Hi, Do you think that people are just bored with church services????
    Maybe its it is time for a change from with in church government. People do not want lectures they want GOD.
    They want prophets in the pulpits and not mascots.
    Church leaders are not to sit in judgement of those that do not stay in structured churches they are to be the greatest servants of all.Remember church is the gathering of the Gods people born of the Spirit. Church is not the charade of 3 songs and a lectures from a pastor who assumes it is his job to do so.

    Easy to put the blame on those who leave. Pharisees know no wrong,they have kept or the “rules”. Please rethink and pray through some more your conclusions.

    God Bless.

    • Pete Hipple says

      Groan…Always easy to denigrate the poor souls who “the stone throwers” think are not as enlightened as them.

  73. Bill says

    Thom, Just happened upon your site. You gave a lot of reasons for people leaving and not coming to church. I think that you forgot the most important one, a lot of preachers are republican party politicans. If laws could change a persons heart Jesus died needlessly. My bible tells me in 2 Cor. 5:17 that Christ and only he will bring us a new life. All of this social issue stuff is only stuff and it turns people off especially our young people. Our young people have friends of difference races, different nationalities, people that are poor, sick, hungry, needy. They do not want to hear a preacher speaking bad about these people. They also like to be told the truth of science which a lot of pulpits seem to be negative about.. So many churches you enter never talk about the red letters of the bible. The Apostle Paul said to preach Christ, and Christ crucified. These things I talked about are why lots of people don’t want church., change has to occur to bring them back .

  74. Irene says

    I know a lot of people have left churches because of money; heads of auxilliaries asking for money for pastor appreciation through the year, paying dues to be in the choir or the women’s board. One member didn’t have money to do all the extra things, or buy meals or pay $20 a month for a year for his “dues” for the pastor appreciation service. I personally don’t like being “forced” to join an auxillary where I will have to pay dues.

  75. rachel says

    the thing about church is peopel are being tought from the bible which is the old gospal which was closed what the leaders and pasters have to do is teach the church members to use the bible in the same way they use a manual or cookery book as a referance to help guid them on the right road . so that the new gospal can be written . to many people think that mirricals are going to happen like they did for mosse and Jesus but what they are forgetting they truly did Gods will and didnt excpect any thing in return but to day so many people not just ones who go to church dont want to do any thing unless they get some thing back and becaus of this they are gaing a cold heart and moving further away from our lord even if they think they have been saved or told they have been saved , and to many are being tought that once they are baptized they will gain eternal life but they shouldnt be because to gain life with god you have to go and do his will with no expectations of getting any thing back from man but god him self and they only true way is to have solitued and learn truely about god and all hiden spirits then realize why and what church is all about and not wait for someone to tell them how to act but to act how god tells them but to have a church is giving you strength to do gods will because when you are low in numbers that is when satan stricks and that is what peopel are forgetting . yes i dont go to church but i read study and pray every day ive only ever walked into a church and what i see is they are being tought in the wrong out look also the church has become greedy with the tith as 10% of your earnings isnt and shouldnt be money it could be cloths or beding or food as god doesnt like money but your tithings should and always was ment to help the poor and sick not spend it meaningless stuff God will help the correct church to still stand up straight if people werent greedy and helped each other God Bless

  76. Elsie says

    This is not meant to be critical of anyone, but I feel I must say something for those sincere believers that left their church for reasons other than “they felt they were entitled to something…” First of all, you cannot make a blanket statement like that, there are circumstances in every situation that have to be taken into account. I am speaking as one who has left her church of 20 plus years, not really wanting to, but sensing the Lords leading. I was given a scripture by the Holy Spirit, then that same scripture was given to me the next day by someone who called and said the Lord had a word for me. She is not the type to give a word to everyone on a regular basis.
    I witnessed in that church at least 30 times public humilation and false accusation spoken from the pulpit. The people involved had never been in a private meeting with the leadership to discuss any problems; the Word of God says we are to meet privately first. They were reprimanded publicly without any warning. This became a regular practice, to the point that members cringed during sermons wondering if they might be next. We were “accused” of being too joyful during worship while they knew about men that were abusing wives verbally and possibly physically and yet we never heard a sermon on that. Please if you are a pastor, I pray that you will hear this coming from someone that had to leave reluctantly. I believe there are many people that leave for selfish reasons, but possibly many more that leave because they can’t sit under that type of leadership and continue to grow spiritually. There is too much insecurity and even jealousy in the church. How can the congregation mature and be fruitful if the leadership is allowing strange things to go on week after week?
    Proven members with wisdom and leadership abilities are being pushed aside for young people that are not ready for certain assignments. They are not taught to respect the older people. They are told that they are the “future” and they are, but it has given them a sense of entitlement that only belongs to those that have had not only years of spiritual growth but growth in life in general. I say let the young people watch the older ones first before they are handed a position just because a spot needs to be filled. I guess leadership thinks the young people have to be led by their peers in ministry. But when I was in school all of my teachers were older, some much older than me. It just taught me to respect them. I am attending a prayer meeting and church service on Friday nights now until the pastor finds a permanent building for Sundays. Pray for me because I am getting over the bad church experience and I need to be restored. I still love God with all my heart…that will never change.

    • Ken says

      We will pray for you for sure. I do appreciate so much your response. You bring out some very valid points. Scripture does bring out the proper order for things and dealing with things in the church. Too many times, human beings get in the way and start, maybe even unknowingly, usurping authority over what God says. Also, it does say in scripture of pastors that they are not to be novices. Leadership in the Bible seems always to point to older, mature, God seeking Christians. Thanks again.

    • lydia says

      Thank you for speaking up. What a poor judgement is being made here,so insensitive and unChristlike. me and my family faithfully served in a local church for almost half a decade, until we found out the leadership had bad issue that had never been dealt with. A lot of people at our church left because of the abuse,moral issues and pride and strife that was initiated from the leadership. It was very painful watching people being pushed out of church and threatened just because they try to call the leader out for some issues that could have been dealt with if the the leader was honest. So sad to know people in some churches raise their eyebrows and give a cold shoulder after knowing that you just left a church. I say this article about reasons why people leave churches is a very poor judgement and thank you for speaking up.

  77. Hal says

    Rainer,
    Regarding why some people are not being used in the church, I would like to point out that often times it can be due to issues of personality rather than issues of qualifications. For example…….I know of a case of a gentleman that always aspired to serve in positions like church service usher or greeter positions, however this same gentleman had the personality and demeanor similar to that of a crocodile.
    Another man in our church aspired to be a Sunday School teacher and was also highly educated with several Bible College degrees. The problem with this man was that he overwhelmed his victims one-on-one with his enthusiasm and information overload. Whenever he would get a willing listener cornered he would expound on the details of complicated scripture for as long as you would listen; and sometimes that could be 30 to 45 minutes. After 15 minutes with this guy you felt physically exhausted and spiritually assaulted. Before long, church members would head the other way whenever they saw him coming. This was a man that almost immediately after joining the church, (and because of his credentials), expected to be placed in high profile positions of leadership such as teaching and preaching. But again, as a result of the man’s personality, church leadership was reluctant to place him in these areas of service. He had the head knowledge, but lacked the interpersonal skills, and as a result he repulsed rather than attracted people.
    Because of these examples, it’s important to note that one must allow time for a congregation to get to know you before you can expect to be allowed to serve in some positions within the local congregation.

  78. says

    While the facts above as to why people leave a church are valid and some people are just immature and selfish from what I have seen is that elders, pastors and leadership are in crises and many have become puffed up with pride, materialism and a love of money and do not function according to the calling we find in the book of Timothy. The concept of a special ‘team’ has come to the fore and the rest of people are just there to foot the bills of the team. A lot of elders are so far removed from the congregation in so many aspects they do not have a clue of the pains and needs of the people of God. Ezekiel 34, Jeremiah 23 and in the book of Micah clearly spell out what is happening in many church today. I have seen favoritism and partiality that is sickening to say the least where the rich and wealthy business people get seats of honour and special recognition but not because of spiritual maturity but because of the money they can give. Another aspect is bad and incorrect teaching and bible doctrine that is spewed forth week after week to promote the pastors plans and ideals which in many instances are very far from the plans and will of the Lord and His word. To remain is such a congregation will be a slow death for you and your family. When there is good and godly mature leadership who love God and His people from a genuine heart and show that in acts of love, provision and care under leadership of the Great Shepherd Jesus Christ, people will have little to complain about. Treat all people with respect, mature them in the word and let everyone play his or her part in the body of Christ.

  79. Janet says

    What about people who are asked to leave a churches? Yes, four times. My family has given up trying to go. I would be interested in a blog about special needs ministries and what pastors think of them. I attended church regularly and served in different ministries until my child got too old for children’s church and too disruptive for the service. I was asked to leave Sunday school in a church that has a special needs program. I am not a pew- warmer . Worship, service and fellowship are vital to being a part of a church body. I now live in near isolation. There are over 44,000 families like mine in my state alone. I am praying for God to meet this great need. I am also asking Him if a church plant for families like mine who understand each other is a possible solution. My life will never look like yours. It is unimaginable to typical people and they limit our involvement in church activities as well as fellowship for us. I appreciate your thoughts about this.

  80. says

    I use to really hate going to church as an adult, always falling asleep or mom pushing it on me. But then I found a church and I actually learned something and understood what was being said. I love writing about what I learned. What’s even better, I have friends that don’t want to go or can’t go. My friends can read what I learned and learn from me. Every time I go to church, I will be posting what I learned. I guess if I go and I don’t post, I didn’t learn anything lol this will keep my pastor on his toes.. I am by far the hardest person to learn anything. If you go to church and feel that you have learned something… anything positive please share with us. Enquiring minds want to know :)

    Maybe you might not attend church, you might just read from the bible or learn a positive life lesson you might want to share. All religions welcomed, there is only one God. I just want a positive room. Please feel free to join and share, or simple read the post. Thanks for your support xoxox

    -Sheila L Roberts

  81. Gods Kid says

    Jesus was anti-religion, Find God in your life and it won’t matter what religion says or does, because you won’t need it. May God Bless you.

  82. kcstewart says

    When you are saved you become a pastor, just don’t read the Bible read the Bible and ask for the wisdom to understand it.

  83. says

    The reason I’ve just left my church is that those members “born into it” – ie: their parents, grabdparents- going back, at least six generations, in some cases – see newcomers as a threat, rather than as a refreshing addition to the church.

    I took 12 years of hostility, constant critism, sarcasm, and private plus public bullying and humiliation, in a leadership position until I could take no more, which contributed to a mental breakdown, and 4 weeks in a physiciatric ward – where the, mainly, non-Christian, NHS staff behaved towards me in a wonderful caring way that I – rightly – would have hoped from a “Christian” congregation … both newcomers and – especially – those “born into it” who have been more spiritually fed than most people ever will be, having attended almost all their lives!!!

    I’m now looking for a church that will welcome newcomers – gently and tactfully involve them, and not overwork and take unfair advantage of their enthusiasm and willing spirit. Also, not be judgemental and critical, as I had been in my last church for over 12 years.

    If I can’t find that, then I shall just have no option than to “go to church” annonymously on the internet.

    • Esen says

      Okay,
      I have read a lot of comments here and some are honest but some are simply from pastors
      not looking in the mirror.
      I’ve been a Christian for about 23 years and served in many capacities. Right now i am in the position
      of wondering what the local church is really doing and where i fit without being disgusted at the whole thing.
      A little background on church observation. I have served for years in different churches but due to my job have been in different churches at different times and in more than one denomination…meaning i have not stayed in one church for 20 years like some of you. I believe God has used this to teach me a few things about His church (the body of believers) and to carry the burden in prayer.I have lived in America, Africa, Europe and i have observed a few things that has caused pain to a lot of people, myself included.

      I have left two churches for different reasons and felt pain in many because of one overwhelming reason. We don’t really love each other. Oh we say we do. “Bless you sister, how are you?” but other than sunday and maybe a weekday, how many people really are in other people’s lives. I’m a minority and have served in many mainstream churches and honestly how do you explain when a welcome committee can never show up in your house, although they oops! showed up in the others that looked just like them? And if they do, how uncomfortable they look!

      How do you explain distant politeness but when you ask to go for a cup of coffee with someone they tell you they will get with you but never do but you find out they are mingling with themselves? How do you explain a youth pastor who will not take a minority kid and spent time with him during crisis but will only shoot an email, yet can visit those kids who look just like him? As a minority i write but i see it even among similar races. I think the western culture of wide personal space and individualism plays into this but is this an excuse? We are to weigh everything with the word of God.

      You can not fake love and care. People feel it. You can not love people because they fit your image or lifestyle. The rich snubbing the poor (and no I am not poor but i see), the majorities and minorities keeping to themselves etc. Look at your inner crowd and judge your hearts.

      Another thing. All these seeker friendly church programs where the seasoned christians are continually fed milk and milk and milk so that the new ones aren’t offended and leave does not sound biblical. Yet a lot of pastors do it, claiming to be “reaching the lost.” To the point of calculating just 10 mins of praise and worship, a light gospel and dismissal. It has to be fun!! Everything deeper is stealth because we want the babies or atheist to be comfortable and see that “we are alright!”. There is no power of God, no fruit, no development. It literally kills the zeal of the mature and we leave.

      programs, programs, program, all taught in seminary but no power. Had a friend dying of cancer and no one from a church she attended for 7 years came by other than once with a bouquet of flowers. Until she died then they came to say, “oh she’s in a better place and we brought groceries.”

      I live in the south right now. Some people have never ever invited a different race into their homes for fellowship, yet will contribute money for Africa. We see it and we leave or we stay and pray. Yes I am African in America so I observe as a third party looking in. And you wonder why you have country clubs? Who are we mocking?

      I looked at my friends funeral and if not for friends she has from her country, the church would have been almost empty. Big churches of 800 or more people, hallelujah it is growing!! But growing into what? Stop pastors and really look at what you have. Most are country clubs.

      That’s why people leave. Yes there are drama oriented people but I have met a ton who leave because they are not really loved and because they simply want to grow and that’s an honest need. And they find the true meaning of love when they finally say No to working and working and working, no to what a pastor says because they are uncomfortable or tired, or they find out when crisis comes and the church never had a benevolence fund, never came over except to bring a bouquet of flowers.

      Oh and what do we prayer and caring ministers find out while serving all these seeker friendly people? The church is full of stunted growth, people who the devil can flick with a finger and they are down, have no strength, full of illnesses and no fruit of the spirit (no joy, no peace etc) but hey they have been listening to the milk for YEARS. Yet when you bring a solution, someone feels threatened or checks with the tradition of the church or…fill in the blanks.

      Aren’t we tired? Thousands of people coming out of seminary every year, fully eloquent, fully trained, bookstores lining every street, a church every few blocks, a gospel we read of power but where is it? So we excuse the absence of power since to find it will require time on our knees and full surrender or oops even the fact that one might need to reassess their ministry calling, by saying God says no, or yes or maybe or one more sermon or an interpretation of scripture that is confusing. And yet intrinsically in the true believer we sense there is more, that something is wrong somewhere.

      A lot I wish I would communicate to the leaderships and believers but i think i have said enough for someone who really cares to go to their knees and pray to God fervently and honestly tell God to show them the truth of the gospel, not their denominational truth, not their traditions but straight from the heart of God because right now something feels old.

  84. Tom S says

    Hello again Doc. Saw another blog here and I will make my response short and sweet. I left the church based on your #7 most talked about blog post, which was my first comment on our site here today….PASTORS SALARIES.

    Somebody told me once, I should become a preacher because I have my military retirement, run my own fitness business, care about people and I know the most important word that people need is the one word talked about the most in the bible…..LOVE. It’s what Mr. Graham always preached about and even his son Franklin when I volunteered back around 2001-2002 as one of their Adult Counselors when they came to my town.

    So, if folks can become preachers without a salary, I will go back or if I don’t, I will start my own church and show the PROPER MODEL of how a pastor can run a church without getting a salary, it can be done…..remember, priests have being doing it for years in the Catholic Church.

  85. marilyn bauer says

    In my experience the reason that people move to another church is because the vision of church has changed from inclusive to exclusive. The minister, in order to establish the church as he envisions it, often excludes some groups in favor of increasing another group of members. The Blend service, as I understand it, is supposed to be inclusive but can end up excluding those who are older and without children to teach them the new format that is being taught only to the very young. Fortunately, the emphasis on small groups by the Methodist Church allows those feeling excluded a chance for support by the church family. In my experience, the concept of small group membership has been the strength of the church when members are feeling excluded. The members are able to support and care for each other in their spiritual and physical development and hopefully do it in a way so they can grow. The example given above sounded very child-like but my guess it was simply a plea for inclusiveness.

  86. Amanda says

    I left the church because I realized it’s all hogwash ancient history.There is no evidence to it’s truth. If “feel it in your heart” is truth, then how do you decipher what’s in your heart apart from what’s in a Jew’s heart or a Muslim’s heart? I wanted to be a better christian. So I cracked open my bible, to read it cover to cover, instead of random chapters. The bible is contradictory, god in it is malevolent and genocidal, it supports slavery and never once retracts, it says women are lesser and one of the most praised “righteous” men, Lot, offers his daughters to be raped instead of his visitors. I really could go on for a very long time. Compare it side by side to the Quran, and it is the same thing.There is no evidence of god and I realized how harmful fairy tales can be when you actually believe them to be true. Most of us were raised christians, but that’s because of our families. Had we been born elsewhere from different parents, we’d be their religion. By time we were adult enough to ask questions, it was too late– Already seems normal and you’ve heard every last apologetic. The church asks people to be willing slaves to a sky lord. Do you know any black person who ever volunteered to be a slave? Or anyone who wanted to move to north korea to serve a dictator? One who will punish you for not loving him back? or working on a sunday? (punishment for breaking sabbath, in the ten commandments, was death…that’s your god? Who will send an evil rapist to heaven for “repenting” and turning his life around but then send me to hell for simply not believing in him, or for “taking his name in vain” or for having sex according to my own will? How is that freewill? That’s: do as I say or be punished. Ask yourself…what reasons have I been given to believe besides feelings? Besides confirmation bias? What questions have I asked that I received unsatisfying answers for? Why is what I believe more knowable than what other religions believe? That’s another reason people leave the church. A phone call isn’t going to do anything unless that phone call has some real evidence to support the beliefs.

    • Virginia says

      Hiya Amanda……..I completely agree with you….you are not alone in these questions that your hearts seeks as mine does too. I struggle, daily, with many things regarding God. I am holding onto a single thread in all of this. One of my questions is, “why did God create all of these wonderful things, and all of these people, if he knew the outcome of it all? Why would he create people just to have all of us go through trials and tribulations….despair and hurts….misery and evil? Why would he create people just to have so many reach heaven….and then many more have to go to hell? Hell….the place where there is gnashing of teeth and no more hope or love….always in darkness and pain….why?”
      I don’t know if I will ever find my answer….*sigh* Hope you are well =)

  87. Hank Shiver says

    The immorality of members is one of the greatest causes of people leaving any church. Forgiving a child molester, rapist, thief, etc. does not promote morality. The most immoral people on earth think they are forgiven by Jesus for any transgression. People who do not believe in divine forgiveness tend to be more moral. Why would Jesus constantly forgive adultery or stealing? “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven” has no human morality in the concept.
    Lower IQ people tend to be the most religious. Nations with a higher IQ rating tends to be less religious and have a higher standard of living. Except for politicians, the more educated a person is, they more liberal their religious beliefs are. The conservative political churches are driving people away in droves. Leaving politics out of religion makes religion more pure and desirable.

  88. Reaching New Heights says

    Thanks Thom for this insightful article. I’m pastor of a new church and we’re looking to slam the “back door”. We frequently host training for members for spiritual growth and leadership development. This could be a topic we might delve into a bit further. Could you share the statistical analysis and/or research you mention above?

    Thanks,

  89. Jim says

    Good article, but I think there’s another side to it that’s comfortable to ignore. As ministers, it’s easy for us to point the finger at those who leave, and claim they are wrong. I think entitlement is an issue. At the same time, I think there’s an entitlement that can creep into a leader’s heart that says because they open the doors and have a service, people should never leave. If they do, they are “spiritually immature” and sinful….when maybe our entitlement is adding to it.

    It’s seen really well in the Prodigal Son parable…the son that left thought he was entitled, and then when he came back, you found on that the “old faithful” that stayed and was running the place had the same problem, but was manifesting it in a different way. Most notably, though it’s the same problem, coming from two different sources, it doesn’t mix too well. They usually feed off each other, from the leader to the one who stays to the one who leaves, and all are equally susceptible to it. What happens is a leader or the staying member can almost project a set of expectations at all the work someone who left will have to do to achieve equal status again…they haven’t suffered or grovelled enough for us to welcome them back…like the older brother did. That’s not the way the Father reacted when the son returned, and though we don’t have any conversations recorded while the son was away from the Father, I doubt he spoke with disdain of his son while he was gone in staff meetings or at socials. I think that tells a lot.

    Much more is caught than taught…if you are an entitled leader or church member, expect to attract the entitled. As you nurture them in that behavior, don’t be surprised when they leave.

  90. says

    Thom,
    Great post. A few years ago I read your book “High Expectation Churches” and found it very helpful.
    After reading the book we implemented a PRE-membership class where we explain our vision, mission and expectations of membership. That class has effectively closed our back door. In the last 4 years only a handful of members have moved to another church. Your book has helped us to become a healthy church.
    Thank You
    Scott

  91. Paul says

    I have a very low tolerance for the “churched”. I surrendered my life to Jesus in 1984. I find the churched to be among the most arrogant, judgmental, ignorant and disrespectful – moreso than everyday people. Arrogant – many times based on degree of biblical knowledge. That is idolatry, and it is unattractive and abusive. Judgmental – critical eyes tend to watch for error, the self-appointed sin police. Ignorant – unknowing people size you up based on their perceived position, and many times perceive themselves as your self-appointed mentor and impose themsleves on you. Disrespectful – Because you only have so much time here on earth, I find that many come to men’s groups and such with their own agenda – to chitchat, to seek “counseling” for pains such as separation and divorce – when we are supposed to be doing a book study, and sometimes they are there just for the food. Yes, I believe in Jesus, but I hate going to church because everytime I do, I feel like I must always be on guard against being molested by some self-appointed do-gooder.

    • Hal says

      Paul,
      I hear what you are saying and I can definitely relate. My own church…..and I would venture to say that every church has the same people you describe as members.
      However Paul, all of the situations you describe can be diplomatically and tactfully handled and unfortunately does not hold much water as an excuse to forsake the assembling with believers as God instructs us in His word. I would also venture to say that these same kinds of people existed even within the first church’s established by the disciples. In fact Jesus himself had some encounters with these kinds of folks within the temple.
      A wise minister once told me regarding church life…..”Whenever people come together in one place we are going to have to deal with the issues of people being people, unfortunately even in the church”. He went on to say that God in his wisdom instituted the church for many reasons”. Since one purpose of the church is to evangelize the lost , one reason for church life is to teach us to have patience with one another and learn how to deal with all kinds of personalities and situations. Church life is basically a training ground for our Christian development”. Other reasons for the church is to help us to grow in our knowledge of the Word; the church environment gives us opportunities to test our wings regarding our talents in areas of church service. Church life also keeps us connected and encouraged in our faith walk. Remember the coal that is removed from the fire eventually grows cold and goes out.
      Yes Paul, unfortunately…..like every other area of life: even God’s church is not exempt from its own share of jerks. But….keep in mind…God instituted the Church for many reasons and the benefits of it far outweigh the downsides of removing ones self from the fellowship of believers.
      Kind of like the old commonly used excuse for not attending church; “Well I don’t go to church because the church is full of hypocrites”; and I’m told if I decide to go there will be one more.
      And regarding those that come to church and want to unload their problems: remember Paul, the church is a hospital for the sick…….not a hotel for the saints. And don’t be too hard on these folks that need to talk about their problems; you might want to exercise your patience by becoming a better listener, because the day will probably come when you will want to be listened to yourself.
      I have come to notice over the years that the vast majority of the people that have these kinds of complaints against God’s church family, and as a result remove themselves out of the church, are themselves very much like the very people they are complaining about.

  92. Randall Seaman says

    Dear Thom,

    Thanks for your very insightful words. They made me think and reflect on my own beliefs as to why a church loses its members. I agree that in many churches there is an “entitlement mentality”. And I do agree that people leave because they arent being served. However, as a 20+ year, every Sunday usher at our United Methodist church, I have to comment that there is a different way to look at the entitlement mentality – and that is from the point of view of relatively new members in conflict with the older members “who were here when the first brick was laid”. They often believe that their longevity entitles them to special benefits that recent members cant expect to receive… ranging from Kitchen privileges to “that’s my pew, please move down”. This attitude, that there are some who are more equal than others, is very alienating and is the cause of a lot of back door escapes. That, and a church that lacks warmth and friendliness. Ive seen many people come and go – and stay – and our church has worked hard to be a welcoming church and to treat everyone with the same level of consideration – whether they were here when the ark settled or just arrived on a different boat. Best regards.

  93. says

    I have to say Im not a big fan of going to church. I grew up going to a Wisconsin Synod school and all I heard about was the fire and brimstone side, not exactly welcoming. There was also a great deal of pressure put on us kids to give money and push our parents to give money. Again, not a warm environment , so I grew up with a bad taste in my mouth about church. It is now 30 + years later. I started going back to church because my wife started “convincing” me to go. My attitude at the time was “Its only an hour of the week if it makes her happy” While It still isnt my favorite thing to do I dont have the same apprehensions about going to our church now (ELCA synod) They are very welcoming and warm toward everyone. Our church was destroyed by a tornado late this summer and we have been meeting at various places, but I was impressed how everyone stuck together through it all and find myself more willing to help out and give more time because they all make me feel like a part of it. I realize church is largely based on traditions but the old school “Believe or go to hell” attitude is turning off many.. It did to me early. The churches that realize they may have to change with the times will not only help themselves, but it may help turn the tide of the lack of morals we see in our country these days.

  94. says

    Good points, as a self-serving Christian might give reason for leaving a church. However, the article doesn’t reflect on reasons from a devout believer’s departure from a body. There are far too many institutions that conform to fulfilling the social needs of people, preeminent over the called purpose of the Church, the glorification of Jesus Christ through the Good News. Instead of a heart fixed on eternity with an aberration toward earthly delights, there is the juxtaposition of combining earthly pleasures and social pursuits with a biblical overtone, rendering the Purpose Driven manifesto, formally called the Emerging Church. It goes something like this, “Go out in the community and make friends with others, keeping religious metaphors to a minimum. Then bring them to our church family.” Instead of gospel focused church, many have become a social emphasized community. It makes sense from a logical perspective and it works to build numbers in the 1,000′s. However, it is not the method or purpose of the Spirit of Christ, to develop mega-social centers using the banner of Christ as a mascot. Much like a pet sin coveted, these fallacious entities have permeated our communities for a number of years now as the “normal church” of Christendom, while in truth some are a conglomeration of pop psychology, social humanitarianism, and pseudo Christianity. From such, do flee out the back door, for your very soul may depend on it.

  95. Virginia says

    While I agree with some of what you are saying….because there are those that do have an entitlement attitude…I do disagree, agreeably, on a lot of it. I have been raised in church…and I have gone to a lot of churches because I have moved…a lot! I have seen a plethora of things going on in the church. We live in a hurting world where people are bombarded with despair, hurts, wounds, issues, trauma, sickness, failures, etc. If someone feels “entitled” to having their pastor be involved in their life then that should be ok. The pastor is the shepherd of their flock and they have been placed in that responsibility of taking care of that flock. The sheep need their shepherd for guidance, support, care, love, safety, truth, compassion, prayer, and to just have someone watch over them. Does leadership get burned out? Yes, they can if the support system is not in place. If the sheep are taken care of, the shepherd is taken care of. The shepherd has wool, food, companionship, community, and a livelihood with his sheep. If his sheep are sick, or stolen by the enemy/wolves, malnourished, or ignored…they will not survive; there will not be sheep. This system is a servant system from both sides. They take care of each other in their own ways. The souls of the pastors people don’t only need salvation…yes, this is important….they need to be nurtured and taken care of on the human level as well. Its like someone posted above….Jesus didn’t come to talk to the well. He came to talk to the sick. He came to the beggars, the poor, the sick, the needy, the distraught, the despaired, the wrong doers, the ones so far in the pit they cant see the light the day…
    You mentioned people leave the church “for some need not being filled…” This needs to be elaborated on because what exactly do you mean by “need?” A church isn’t full of those whose cups are already filled. If they are then they wouldn’t need to go to church anymore…or for a long time at least. A church isn’t for those that have reached perfection for that wont happen here on earth….ever! A church isn’t for those that have no issues, traumas, unhappiness, or despairs in life….A church is for the broken hearted….for those that have needs. If someone goes missing for two weeks, and no one notices, there is a problem. If someone gets hurt because no one noticed then they are justified in being hurt. Just a quick phone call to ask if they are ok speaks volumes to people. If someone asks the pastor to call their cousin….then there is probably a good reason. For the pastor to feed them….spiritual food….or even just food….depends on the situation. A church is there to reach out and help their members….if they have a family, or two, that is on the verge of starving should have their church get together and make them meals. If the pastor didn’t visit them…people need to know they are thought of, cared for, loved, and important…especially by their church. You take these examples, and for sake of a short blog, and don’t specify on these examples leaves the door open for all kinds of misconceptions. The leadership has a responsibility….just like the members do. I agree. However, the buck stops with the leadership….that’s why they are in the leadership position. That’s what that means….leadership: the ability to lead others as a direct result of the gifting received from, and performed by the power of, the Holy Spirit. The biblical spiritual leader understands that his/her leadership is one of servanthood. God called them to guide and care for His people…
    Now there are a few people that have an entitled attitude, like you were saying, but sometimes that entitlement comes from the leadership not leading. Other times it can come from a self-righteous, hypocritical, arrogant person that thinks the whole world, the church, and God owe them something…but lets make sure we don’t lump these guys with those that are really wanting to be a part of a church that looks out for each other.

  96. Ellen says

    There will always be reasons why people will leave a church. The reasons mentioned above are good reasons, but I feel that either there could be more reasons why people leave, or the points mentioned above need to be elaborated somewhat to understand a person’s personal situation more. For me, the reasons why I left the Missouri-Synod Lutheran church my seem personal, but to me they are valid reasons. The church did not feed me, meaning that I did not get anything out of going to church, it was full of back-stabbing gossipers. The members of the congregation were arrogant and judgmental of anyone who did not believe what they believed, yet, the congregation did behave as Christ’s disciples.

    Also, because I have relatives and friends who are Jewish and Catholic, it rubbed me the wrong way having to listen to everyone in church condemning people whom I care deeply about. It may be because that is what Lutheran churches believe and teach, but I did not feel that it was for me, so I did have a valid reason for leaving that church. I now go to a Catholic Church, and I believe since Vatican II, they have it in their teachings that they are not condemn or judge others because of their beliefs. Catholics are taught to respect other religions for what they believe to be true. After who are any of us to judge anyone else?

    I feel that if there are personal conflicts with people in church, it does not help to get too involved or to make excessive commitments to the church. The reason why I feel this way is because if you serve a church where the members of the congregation don’t respect you or regard you as relevant except for “we need you for _____”. That is how people in a church take advantage of you. So while, it may be a nice gesture to have someone visit me or call me from church, I would rather that it be for reasons of building a TRUE friendship that can be carried out in and out of church, not just find out what I alone can and will give to a church. While I know that we are all supposed to love one another because God loves all of us, anymore, I do not believe that we should be letting people take advantage, or that it makes the church relationships that authentic. It may be just me, but I feel that I am better with small groups where we truly have things in common interests outside of church besides our faith.

    I think that if a church has or expects members to serve in the church, it is really important to make sure that each member serving is properly trained (#4) for the job whether it be an usher, choir member, Sunday School teacher, reader, etc, and that it is really something that the people want to do. I think that it is important that people be honest about serving instead of being thrown into the ring. For me, that would be another reason for leaving a church because of being dragged into something that I am either not qualified to do or really do not feel comfortable doing.

  97. RosieCheeks says

    My church is undergoing some major transitions right now. There was a huge conflict between the pastor and the church executive committee and now all of the church’s founding members left. I worked as the church’s secretary for a brief time. I worked during the heart of the chaos. Now there are some qualities/habits about my pastor that is starting to really surface. I noticed them before but thought it was due to the conflict at our church. For instance, he micromanages. Anything he gets involved in goes wrong. Because of his controlling nature, this makes it really challenging for leaders to be creative in their innate talents. secondly, he has terrible time management. He expects people to do things in the church at last minute notice. This is now a pattern. He functions this way. He does this with the Sunday morning programs weekly. As the secretary, this puts a lot of pressure greatly affecting my personal and education goals. I deal with people’s attitude, frustrations, and disapproval. Once they speak with the pastor, they act and talk differently. Third, I share a lot of personal issues and concerns with my pastor because of what I was going through at the time. Now I have regrets. What made me most uncomfortable is that he would drag the information out of me then once he has it sends me off my way. Later, the situation is a bigger deal than needed. Fourth, should a pastor compromise a member’s confidentiality? Is his accountability to God a valid reason to share a person’s personal conflicts with others? In the executive committee and outside the committee?

    My concern: I am no longer comfortable at this church. I know the Christian lifestyle is not a matter of comfort but my heart is no longer there. I love to be active and get involved in ministries but do not like a restricted environment, a micromanager, or habitual last minute arrangements. The latter interferes a great deal my personal life and others feel the same way.

    • Hal says

      In the church I attend we have a group of Elder leaders who work as a team in conjunction with the Pastor.
      If this were happening in our church I would suggest you take your concerns first to the pastor himself and sit down with him and be frank and honest with him regarding these issues. Talk to him like you would a close friend.
      If he blows you off or it becomes obvious that nothing is going to change, or he misuses your conversation in anyway, I would then take your concerns to the Elders. The Elders then can then sit him down for a hear-to-heart and proceed whith him from there.
      Could be he just needs a slight personality or attitude adjustment.

  98. Aunt Judy says

    I am considering leaving my church due to our church is not being led by our Pastor but by his wife. As time goes by this gets clearer and clearer. Several people have left in the past few years and a few a know have left because of something Pastors wife said or did. As I serve in our church I feel that I am serving the Pastors wife and not God.

  99. Michael from Australia says

    Most of the people who say that Church members leave because they have an “entitlement mentality” are usually people who don’t want to have any accountability. They don’t want to make friends or reach out, & look at you with suspicion as if you need to prove yourself. They are already part of an established Church culture with their fake smiles. Welcome to my Church but not in my group.
    This happened to me, after a couple of years trying to get involved, in the end i just left quietly. No “exit interview”. Nobody interested when i left.
    I’m sorry to say this, but as i see persecution coming to the western world, it will clean up the Church of it’s falsehood. people WILL be forced to stick together or perish.

    • Hal says

      Good points Michael……I think you are right on.
      Scripture talks about a great falling away from the church in the last days, and I believe it will be because of the persecution that you mention. I think it will be the beginning of the seperating of the sheep and the goats prior to the Lords return.
      The scenario you describe is very true of a lot of church today since many church’s are in a “Country Club” mindset. Anyone who walks in the door that remotely looks a little odd, is not dressed just right, or their car may need a paint job, may be viewed right off the bat as someone who will probably not fit their “Country Club” criteria, thus litte attention is directed toward these folks, with some members possibly even secretly hoping they don’t come back. This hardly meets Gods expectation of Biblical evangelism, but sadly it does happen.
      This can be especially true of the very small rural church’s that were started 125 years ago by two or three families in an area where great- great-grandpa, great uncle Joe, and grandma helped build the original building, and present day male relatives of the original founders still make up the majority of those on the leadership board.
      Many times these church’s will experience little growth over a century and can be quite exclusive and very family and relative oriented. Sometimes to the degree that they are actually more of a family gathering place for a weekly reunion than they are a church, making it very difficult from someone outside the clan to make inroads into the church.

      • David says

        That all may be true Hal, but the knife cuts both ways. Now we are flooded with churches who are so much into the ‘dress down’ and water down syndrome, that if someone over 45 years old shows up, well they are just not ‘hip’ enough to come to that church. They are from the old school, and are just tired, old Christians.

        The point here is to stop looking at each other. When the new church growth movement came into being, their whole premise (and theology) was to tear down the way church had been done. So while you may be associated with some of the more high society churches, there are equally as many if not more of the ‘Purpose’ churches that commit the same offenses pointed out earlier.

  100. Andrew says

    We need to give more attention to the church we choose to attend, easy to goto the closest, but does it suit our shape in the first place! We take more time in selecting local doctors and mechanics than where we will take our family to worship – unfortunately there are dying churches – choose wisely! –
    also I think people expect that the church will instantly supply them with a large group of social friends and events, it is important you have a good friends at your church – but this takes time and effort – step out and invite people for lunch etc, especially as thom states church attendance is less regular. The main reason I have heard people leave church is – “I come most weeks but never see the same person twice and is hard to get to know people”!

  101. Eric Frantz says

    The purpose of attending church needs to be first and foremost to praise and worship God and to bring him glory. Keeping this in mind will help to prevent the entitlement mentality. Every ministry position in a church is important from the head pastor to the lighting and sound crew to the custodian who keeps the church clean for the congregation to use. I think that the idea of mentoring new members to help them grow and find a position of ministry is very good as is teaching new members and believers to have a servant mentality. Jesus who is our example came not to be served but to serve others. I think that the church in America needs more of the servant mentality today. Your blog is helping in this area God bless you for starting it.

  102. says

    Thank you for the open discussion……
    Question is Why people leaving the Church? Let take it this way, as a father, Why my son leaving? for that we as parent we have to question ourselves….with Why my son is leaving.What is the reason of his leaving? Am I’m a good role model in the family and so on..we can ask many questions about that….

    If we cant value our family members that might be the reason they are leaving…being a Pastors I have learn to value my family members as well as the family of God….

  103. Gwen says

    God Bless You and Your Ministry,I haven’t been to Church in 3 Months ,Nobody has called me or came by to see if everything was okay with me,,when I was coming up that the way we did things at St Paul,,we checked on our members,why haven’t I attended in 3 Months?,well it’s been 3 months to date but more of a concern of whether I want to continue attending as a “member, I was dealing with something a while back that could have used some serious “Prayer”, a visit, or a call from the Church Leaders would have been so “Greatly Appreciated”,, but it has never happened, to date.have I been back? No, I haven’t,I have been a member of that Church before most of these “Leaders” were given their positions, (I Love that Church) I was Baptized there 46 years ago, by the ‘Honorable Pastor Robert L Huff” (God Rest His Soul),,he built that church( they now reside in today), He started out in a “small church 3 streets over”. We celebrated the Church’s 100th Anniversary last year,. Today, the church has a ‘New” pastor (3rd one),”Sweet Young Man”,he’s been with us about a year, early 30′s, single, the thing is,,my Marriage has “Troubles”,I can’t speak with him about it, he is not Married, he doesn’t speak about “Marriage”, he doesn’t even have a “Girlfriend”, he doesn’t speak out of the Book of Romans, , he will start his sermon with a Scripture, but it always ends up,, “Don’t mind People, because they don’t Matter”, I turn on “Joel Olsteen”,,TD Jakes,, but I do miss being at Church but I have considered Leaving.We as members need that Love,Strength, and that Hope, from our Leaders in the Church,and from our Pastor,,and I tell you,I got through that “Storm” with the help from others ,(unfortunately) not my Church Home,and you question do you want to go back? I have been gone all this time,and still “Nothing”, well, at the end of the day I go to Church to Worship the Lord, not for the people, but it’s sad when you know the “People” there,aren’t “concerned” about you, it’s an “Awkward” feeling and it “Hurts”,,God Bless.

    • IEsen says

      This is so sad really. I remember thinking the other day, if i were sick or dead, no one in this church would know or care or who would show up for the funeral. I almost had a panic attack but then i told myself I would be gone anyway and at least I have my family and a few loyal friends.

      I however know that i don’t have people in the church because i know that no one really cares. Like you, i have been gone from ministries I was in, and no one called. Yet when i show up again, they want to pray for me and tell me they love me.

      Something has gone seriously wrong with the church. We say Church is the place to worship God. I don’t think so, we worship God in spirt and truth and this is anywhere. Church is for the community of believers to gather together, learn from each other, encourage each other, grow together. we are supposed to be a family, a spiritual family.

      Maybe it all fell apart when we started building buildings and getting richer.

  104. says

    My apologies for responding to a year old post, but the relevance to my own John 17 studies caught my attention. I know the post is focused on members of the church, but I couldn’t help but wonder about new members or the un-churched who walk through the front doors. I believe those folks come into the church with a need, and they are looking to have that need met. Many of them don’t even understand the language we speak half the time let alone understand the heart of a servant. They will likely be in the ranks of the narcissistic for quite some time, because many un-churched think that’s what the church is all about. It is for this reason that we need to be very careful of the language we use when there are visitors present. As a worship leader, I caught myself using terms like, “Let’s worship!” and finally got in the habit of replacing that with “Let’s Sing!” Besides the fact that newcomers may not have a clue what the word worship actually means, we certainly don’t want to teach them that the term is synonymous with singing. That’s a whole different topic unto itself, but my point here is, we need to watch what we’re saying to them and let newcomers be a little narcissistic for awhile. Blessings!

  105. Harold Bowlby says

    There were 7 comments in the article given by those who had left the Church. Three “I’s” Three “Me’s” and one “My” Does that tell you anything? I pastored for 15 years and never worried too much about those who left. Had one couple with a lot of talent in a small Church. They left because of me, but after they left, the entire
    Church was better without them.

  106. deaconsbench says

    I don’t know why anyone else ‘decided’ to leave the brick-n-mortar church, just why I did. More than a decade ago, God impressed it on my heart that the church had had the Holy Spirit removed from her due to her many sins. All this was prophesied in God’s Word and God made it abundantly clear to me. Not through any dreams, voices or miracles, quite simply God using His Word alone and in its entirety, opening my spiritual eyes and ears. Nothing has persuaded me since then of a change in God’s command to leave the church.

    • Halson says

      I agree…….
      It used to be when leadership and the congregation were walking close to God that satan had to work hard to worm his way into the church.
      Now the church looks much like the world and satan is no longer worming, but running through the front doors of many church’s.
      Church’s are accepting more and more the practices of the world and turning a blind eye to God’s Word and open arms to sin.
      As a result……God has removed his lampstand from many church’s .

    • Esen says

      I also know that is why miracles like healing (emotional, psychological and physical) is not going on as well. People like to say God is in the business of healing only with doctors and nurses, like there were no doctors in Jesus time. Also modern medicine is a wonderful thing but people are mostly being patched up than healed, so Jesus wants to continue to make people whole. The same yesterday, today and forever.

      From my observation, sin has caused the lack of the supernatural, as well as doubt. To substitute we make it fun. Been in a church where secular music was played. I agree with what you both have written.

  107. Mike says

    Church is boring and I don’t have the time to sit next to a bunch of smelly, gossiping, old, babbling idiots. It’s God job to forgive people. Refining God to one building or 1 priest is giving up freewill. Something I will never have time for. If I go to hell for my freewill then God never loved me in the first place.

  108. Gena says

    I have noticed in the churches we have attended over the course of our marriage, as we have relocated for my husband’s job… a very common reason to leave the church, amongst those whom were close enough to share with us.

    People who want to serve and are brushed aside.

    I have watched it happen time and time again. Sometimes it is within reason, for example a brand new believer may not be the right person to mentor. But many times that is not the case.

    I have witnessed a lifelong believer, who had actually professional training in out reach evangelism have is spark doused. He had become comfortable in his walk, and hadn’t been involved in outreach. After attending a mens conference, the spark was reignited. When he approached leadership, they didn’t bother to even ask what his expertise was. They just brushed him aside.

    I witnessed a woman with a degree in Christian counseling being pushed aside from creating a mentor program without any good reason. The leadership smile and nodded at her, but never gave her the go ahead. Never gave her the support.

    I watched a woman with a passion for a particular ministry be told time and time again that they couldn’t do more than 1 activity a month because we don’t want to overload the calendar.

    It really breaks a person’s spirit to feel God calling them to serve in a ministry and to be brushed aside. And for some the calling will be so great, that they will leave the church to find one who shares that same desire.

    One church requires all potential small group and bible study group leaders to go through some sort of extensive class and vetting to ensure they are equipped to teach, but this is only if it’s an “official church study”. So, they don’t care if you want to start up a group with your friends… then they don’t get involved with whether or not you are qualified. But, if it goes on the church calender you must pass the test.

    We were very blessed to attend a church that had a yes policy toward ministry. if you wanted to serve, the answer was yes. if you wanted to start something new (unless it wasn’t biblical) the answer was yes. As long as you were willing to put in the work.

    I have watched church leadership micromanage the passions out of service. And those are the people I see leaving.

  109. D says

    What if you want to serve and have the servant mentality, but the leadership doesn’t want you to serve because someone else with better perceived talent is serving in that position? Is this just another entitlement mentality or is this favoritism on the church’s part? My family left churches in the past and nobody ever contacted us to even see why. No exit interview here. That sounds like entitlement mentality, but actually, our perception was that the church doesn’t have a place for us to serve. There’s no doubt other places to serve, but if that isn’t our skill/talent/passion, why should we serve in some position we are not made to do?

  110. tlk says

    Our 7 year old daughter came forward to her father and I almost 3 months ago at home stating that she wanted to be saved and baptized. Knowing our daughter and numerous discussions over the past few years, believe she is ready. We asked our pastor to talk to our daughter, pray with her, and make sure of her understanding. We informed the pastor of this request nearly 3 months ago as well………a couple of times he has mentioned in passing that he has “not forgotten.” I don’t think this is an issue of our entitlement as much as it has become the pastor’s. I am questioning his servant mentality. I do not understand why this is being put off. My husband & I do not want to attend this church anymore. How many times do you request this before you realize salvation is not a priority with this pastor? And, would that not indicate a serious problem and support leaving to find another church home? We need some direction here. Thank you.

    • Hal says

      You have indicated that you have approached the pastor several times. It’s now time to go to the Elders of the church with this issue.
      Since saving the lost is, and should be, the main purpose of God’s church, this obviously does not seem to be a priority with this pastor for some reason.
      I would definitely take this to the leaders of the church first before deciding to leave the church. It could be that this pastor may simply need a little guidance from the church leadership.
      As with you…and in our church as well….this would be totally unacceptable.

    • Mark says

      I believe that at age 7, a child is still innocent. You need to talk to church leadership about it, but I am not sure why it can’t wait a while. The age of baptism has been creeping downward and it may not be such a good thing.

    • IEsen says

      Give your pastor the benefit of doubt. He might not want to hurt your feelings but might have reservations due to the age. As much as I am all for child dedication I am not sure some people are truly comfortable that a child that age truly understands the meaning of the Christian journey, not really. This is understandable.

      There is no rush in these things – you can do a dedication for your child and just let her continue in her christian journey until teenage years.

      • tlk says

        So, I tell my daughter not to listen to the Holy Spirit working within her about accepting Christ and give the pastor the “benefit of the doubt” that she is too young and needs to wait until her teen years? I think this line of thinking is how leading others to Christ results in stagnation, underdeveloped personal relationships with the Lord, and lends to fewer and fewer people willing to serve.
        I appreciate your time in responding. This is not a dedication. It is public Baptism following acceptance of Jesus at home.

        • says

          I wouldn’t want to judge the motives of a child any more than I would want to judge the motives of a 25 year old or even a 55 year old. It isn’t for any human to judge. Just baptize the child that wants to be baptized. If there is any question in the child’s mind when they are older, maybe they will decide themselves that they need a do-over. But then comes the question, are do-overs even necessary. It almost sounds like a legalistic question. In any case, you live by grace. No harm will come by baptizing the child. If it solidifies her faith at such a young age, then so be it. Trusting the pastor’s judgement is the last thing I would do. Judgement is not their job. A good pastor will tell that themselves. Blessings to you and your daughter.

          • says

            I find it ironic that so many would sound like the 12 trying to protect Jesus from the children, when in fact Jesus said we would do well to be more like them. Matthew 19:14 – “Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” So, perhaps we should stop trying to protect Jesus and let the children do what they naturally want to do. If the daughter is astute enough to know it is important, then by all means baptize the child. If the pastor is so convicted against it, let dad baptize the child, or even mom for that matter. I’ll rest now. Blessings all.

        • Hal says

          I fully agree.
          All children develop and mature at varying rates. Many seven year old girls may not have the capacity to understand the plan of salvation, however some seven year olds are quite capable of comprehending and understanding their need for a savior. Everyone is different and should be considered on an individual basis and not just lumped into an age catagory. I have personally known of exceptional cases where some seven year olds have more between the ears than some adults.
          I say, if the young lady seems to understand and seems sincere….go ahead with the baptism. And then later in her life she may realize on her own that she possibly did not fully understand and request as a teen or older adult to be baptized again, as I have known some to do; which is o.k. and no one benefits any less if this happens.

    • Mark says

      Was there pressure put on her? I have read about men who were wanting to be deacons/elders and needed baptized children, regardless of their ages, in order to become one. So the pressure was put on the kid to get baptized just so the father could be made deacon/elder.

      • Hal says

        First of all…..any church that would require a man seeking deacon or elder responsibilities in the church to be the parent of a baptized seven year old is rediculous, not to mention unscriptural.

    • tlk says

      To all of you who have responded with additional thoughts and considerations for the situation I posed regarding our 7 year old daughter, I would like to thank each and every one of you for taking such time.

      Secondly, I need you all to know that I have been one year patient on many, many things that have went on in this congregation. I have analyzed every possible variable, thus, did not respond to some certain responses regarding pressure, age, etc….I need you all to know that outside of this particular situation, I empathize for a living. Meaning, I am a licensed, mental health clinician. Likewise, I have been involved in church since the age of 5 and now, being nearly mid-40′s consider this to some degree, “experience.” I also need those followers to know, in order to ensure you that posing my worries here is not knee-jerk………….I am also two classes away from a doctoral degree in ministry and working on a Phd in business psychology. And please hear me, this is not to say at all that I am “above” anything….just that I have analyzed this considerably.

      But, for those following………I tried again to seek answers from the pastor, and unfortunately, was told he needed to pray about it. Do not get me wrong……….I agree, pray. But I do not understand the need to pray to God about truth, especially when a pastor should already know this. I just wanted clarification……some answers. And, for the life of me, here I sit, a week later………no response. Does a pastor really need to pray for answering someone truthfully? Should he not know by now? I mean, how many of us pray to God that we just answer with the truth?

      I guess what I read in scripture was that Jesus hung out with the sinners. He was not interested in making every board meeting or being in the ministerial alliance schedule to such extent that he made a 7 year old wait 3 months to talk to her about salvation and baptism. Jesus did not send out congregational wide emails about his Super Bowl party, now being a month back, and opted to put a child on the backburner of his “fellowship” agenda. No, Jesus told the disciples to quit stifling the children and do not be a stumbling block, because in order to enter his kingdom, you might want to pay attention to the hearts of these little ones.

      And, maybe this pastor and some of you believe that since she is so young, there is time and it is of no urgency……..but believe me when I say…….I am watching a zeal for Christ in a young child become tainted by this world. I have witnessed to her several times. I have asked the questions, listened to her responses, and witnessed her love………..who would not know her better than I, other than our Lord? Two years ago, her sister came forward (different church) and at that time, I knew she was mimicking something that her sister was genuine about…….but now, it is different. This child is coming forward at a time that has no variables and I am involved with a church/pastor that may or may not get to it after his busy week or 3 months of meetings?

      There is a quote by Leonard Ravenhill that is: “If pastors preached sermons then as they do today, Jesus Christ would never have been crucified.” I agree.

      I will not apologize for saying that the sole purpose of the church-congregation and pastor-is to lead people to Christ through salvation. Jesus said there will always be the poor, thus some type of mission, and yes, we are to love and help and serve as many as possible along the way, but I have yet to read in God’s Word that we need to put off or procrastinate talking to someone who wants/has accepted Christ. Nope, it’s not there.

      I sat in this past worship service listening to our pastor speak on “salvation.” I put this in quotes because it is the first time in a year it is even mentioned, and it is seriously tied to the ministerial board curriculum for area congregation with inviting more people to church. Really? I find that interesting given there is a little girl wondering why you don’t have time to talk to her about receiving Christ and why no one will talk to her about Baptism. I wanted to cry, to scream……….but I can’t. I choke back the tears, reread what Paul says, and try again only to learn……….he doesn’t have time and needs to pray for a “truthful” answer.
      Father forgive me if I am amiss. Show me what I am to do, learn, discern from this experience….May those reading prayerfully respond and understand my discouragement and trust that I do not arrive at such expression without considerable cause and understanding of knowing this is opposite of your Word.

      • IEsen says

        I am sorry for having spoken earlier and too quickly, and giving you the impression that your daughter should not be baptized due to her youth. I was trying to be optimistic and put a positive spin to things.

        As it is, i think this church is harming you and your family and you do seem like a reasonable man. It might be time to leave the church, as the pastor has dealt quite flippantly with your family.

        • Hal says

          Also, as a responsibility to the Lord and service to the other church members, this is an issue that needs further action other than just quietly leaving the church.
          As described in scripture, you need to take one or two Elder leaders of the church and go visit this pastor regarding this matter. Who knows, it may be discovered through further investigation that this pastor has some kind of philosophical bent regarding baptism that does not line up scripturally and could possibly raise the question as to whether he should even be in the ministry. There could be some underlying reason for his hesitancy in this matter that does not jive with scripture.
          To just walk away from this church could be allowing a problem to continue to exist that could hinder the ministry of this flock for years. And by doing this you are not out of line at all. The average flock member sitting in the pews on Sunday morning has every right to go to the leadership in the event they notice something taking place within the church that goes against doctrinal teaching of God’s word.

      • Hal says

        Take the pastor to the account of Phillip and the Ethiopian Eunich. Phillip explained the scripture that the Ethiopian was reading,( which does not even mention baptism by the way), (which is an indicator that Phillip must have went on to explain baptism to the Ethiopian). And while they were still riding along in the chariot the Ethipoian said…..”Look!, here is water, what hinders me to be baptized??
        Good thing this pastor was not sent to the Ethiopian……….

  111. Lisa says

    First, going to church is not a sense of entitlement. True there are those who have the false belief that if you are a church going Christian, you are better than everyone else who is not a church going Christian. Sorry people, in The Lord’s Eyes, we humans are all the same. And he made us in all sizes shapes and colors.
    I have been to numerous churches in my lifetime, and the one I am attending now, I am very happy with. I am not as financially well off as majority of the other church members, and there are times when I cannot attend every Sunday. I do what I can to help out with cleaning, yard clean up and other things, and they appreciate it. In fact, one of the church members called me to see if I was okay because I haven’t been seen or heard from for some time. Everyone gets along, and all are welcome. Going to church is a place to worship, reflect, become educated and learn to be humble and appreciative. Not a place of entitlement, or placed on a pedistal. But a community where everyone is equal along with those who for whatever circumstance are un-able to attend.

  112. rj says

    And sometimes the pastor is an incredibly boring speaking and talks down to the congregation like we are idiots.

  113. Ann says

    What about a personal issue with the Pastor’s family that is never addressed even after requesting counsel from the Pastor. I’ve been a member for 8 years, a tithe and offering giver. I was also a dedicated worker and made sure my work was done with no supervision..I have not been to church in about 4 months. Not one person reached out. Why? Because they could care less rather I’m there or not.

  114. Bryan says

    I believe it was JESUS who said GO INTO THE WORLD AND CREATE DISCIPLES. Yes we are to get together and support each other but I have looked in GOD’S word and have found absolutely no place that says build a church building/organization and fill it with thousands. The call was to GO OUT and was NOT to fill a building. When we once again put into practice loving GOD, loving others, and creating disciples, we will once again be in God’s will and original plan for HIS Church.

  115. Rebecca says

    I believe that another reason why people leave churches is because of cliques in the church – especially amongst the some of the staff and pastor(s). For example, if anyone in this group does something noteworthy, it is broadcasted all over the church. If someone not of this group does the same thing, nothing is said. It can also be said if someone is hurting in the church. I am a staff member, and while my husband and I were going through a very rough patch in our marriage several years ago, not one person from leadership followed up with us to see how we were doing. That is a real concern, I believe, for we are instructed to bear one another’s burdens. Not as a matter of entitlement, but as a matter of Christian love and encouragement. I’m not real sure why we have stayed at this church, other than I love ministering here and going through these kinds of situations has taught me a lot in the years I’ve been here. I have much more compassion for “the least of these” as I feel like I have been one for a long time. But we are moving to another area soon, and I have to say that I am excited and hopeful that we can find a church that will be loving and more welcoming.

  116. says

    Sometimes people leave a church because they don’t feel like they are being used the way that God wants to use them. The church in my opinion needs to find out the talents of the people and build ministries instead of saying here are the ministries that we have..Find one that fits you. Sometimes a ministry may be a little unusual, but if it is effective and the person doing it has a God given gift. That gift should not be discouraged, but the church should get behind it so it can flourish! A church should not close the door to different ideas as long as God is in the middle of it! When the church builds outside in then people will be more apt to stay as they are doing their ministry out of love instead of duty. Their ministry will flourish as the church promotes it and encourages even the unusual as long as God’s love is spread! http://www.lightenload.wordpress.com

Trackbacks

  1. [...] “The Main Reason People Leave a Church” by Thom Rainer – Rainer, the President/CEO of LifeWay, points out that the #1 stated reason is not necessarily a good reason. This is a clear example of where the cultural mindset has hit the church in a significant way. It’s hard for us to believe that Jesus said we really only have one need (Luke 10:42, KJV). [...]

  2. [...] The Main Reason People Leave a Church From Thom Rainer: “But many times, probably more than we would like to believe, a church member leaves a local body because he or she has a sense of entitlement. I would therefore suggest that the main reason people leave a church is because they have an entitlement mentality rather than a servant mentality.“ [...]

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